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Complaints prompt Florida to investigate Countrywide

The state subpoenaed the lender's records.

By HELEN HUNTLEY, Times Personal Finance Editor
Published February 1, 2008


Florida officials investigating mortgage-lending practices are making the nation's largest mortgage company - Countrywide Financial Corp. - their first target.

Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum subpoenaed records from Countrywide in January. He wants documents and information about the Calabasas, Calif., lender's procedures for making loans to people with credit problems and about its dealings with homeowners going through bankruptcy. Concerns range from the marketing of loans to the crediting of payments.

McCollum said his office has received about 150 complaints about Countrywide, which is being acquired by Bank of America.

Attorneys general in California and Illinois also are investigating the company, as is the U.S. Trustees office, which manages Chapter 13 bankruptcy payment plans for people who are trying to save their homes.

Media reports have detailed problems of Countrywide borrowers going through bankruptcy. In a Pennsylvania case, Countrywide sent a client a foreclosure notice, claiming she owed more than $4,000, just a month after she completed a bankruptcy payment plan and court records indicated she was current.

The New York Times reported Countrywide created backdated documents to justify its claim. Bankruptcy judges in Miami and Houston also have raised concerns about Countrywide's behavior toward borrowers, including improper crediting of payments.

"Countrywide has received the subpoena from the Florida attorney general and will cooperate fully with the state's investigation," the company said. "As a matter of policy, Countrywide does not comment further on the status of pending investigations."

McCollum said he has not yet filed subpoenas against the other mortgage companies he is investigating.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report. Helen Huntley can be reached at hhuntley@sptimes.com or 727 893-8230.

Post-buyout boss named

Bank of America Corp. said Thursday it would name a Countrywide Financial Corp. executive to head its combined consumer mortgage operations once its $4.1-billion deal to buy Countrywide is completed. David Sambol, Countrywide's president and chief operating officer, will lead the combined consumer mortgage business. Sambol will continue in his current role, reporting to Countrywide chairman and chief executive Angelo R. Mozilo until the transaction is complete, which is targeted for the third quarter.

Associated Press