Our defense of Countrywide Financial (CFC) here a couple weeks ago brought an emphatic, unanimous response from a very telling source: the company’s employees. To a person, the ones we heard from stood up for Countrywide and agreed that the profile of the company in the August 26 New York Times was a gross distortion. I can’t recall a time recently when we’ve gotten so much mail from employees of a company we’ve written about. In any event, here’s a sample of what the Countrywide folks had to say (We’ve included writers’ name and location with permission):
Had Ms. Morgenson continued reading Step 3 of the sales presentation (a/k/a the "Oasis of Rapport"), she might've found it wise to mention the reason that "rates, points and fees are not discussed:"
"While on the Oasis of Rapport you do not discuss rates, fees and points. We should never quote loan terms or make underwriting decisions based on an empty loan worksheet. Like a good doctor, you cannot give the correct prescription (present an option) without first taking down their history (completing the loan worksheet) and making the proper diagnosis (understanding their situation and the True Purpose of the Loan)."
And what is printed at the bottom of every page of said presentation? "FSL: Honest, Accurate, Truthful" (FSL being Countrywide's subprime retail division, Full Spectrum Lending). Also, if we charge what is considered "overage" (when borrowers are charged more fees than the rate sheet indicates), that money comes directly out of our pocket, dollar for dollar. You charged the borrower $2,500 more in points on accident? That $2,500 comes directly out of your bonus and directly back to the customer. Believe me when I tell you that this is not the practice in the broker world and, in my experience, at Ameriquest. They would smile all the way to the bank.
I think Countrywide is carrying a much larger burden than it should because we are number one. I came from Ameriquest to Countrywide and I can tell you that it is night and day when it comes to ethics. We get weekly "ethics scenarios" that every employee must complete. We have posters all over the walls preaching ethics. We couldn't get a subprime loan that should be prime through underwriting if we tried. Every subprime loan is run through Fannie Mae's Desktop Underwriter system to determine whether or not it would qualify for an "EA" prime loan. And if it does, we are mandated to sell the 30-year fixed EA loan, even if the subprime 2/28 or interest-only loan provides a lower monthly payment.
I wish more journalists would do their homework instead of taking jabs and spinning things to sell more papers.
As a 7-year employee of Countrywide (retail loans) I can emphatically state that loan officers are not incentivised to put borrowers into sub-prime products. My experience has been the reverse. Many customers who contact our Full Spectrum Division (sub-prime) who qualify for A paper have been referred to me. Countrywide has always encouraged its loan officers to develop a "raving fan" base, and to be a lifetime lender and not a one-shot deal. What is truly at issue here is that no company can mandate personal morals and ethics, but they do provide a mission statement, training, and boundaries and hope that those individuals who do not share those views will be culled from those who do. The loan officers are allowed up to a 2% overage on any loan; the when and why is at the discretion of the loan officer, however. Countrywide Corporate closely monitors overages for patterns that might indicate discriminatory practices. If a pattern is found, the overage is revoked and the customer receives a better rate.
The Countrywide I work for has always been defined by its culture statement: "People, Passion, and Principles".
Stacy Wareham Home Loan Consultant Greensboro, N.C.
I have lost my admiration for Ms. Morgenson and the N.Y. Times and am cancelling my subscription. And to those Countrywide employees contributing to her slanderous article and withholding their names! I say shame on them for being so disloyal.
Thank you for your recent response to what his being said about Countrywide. In my 8-plus years with this company I can't count how many loans I have done for free! (0 commission) My only pay was seeing the joy of a first time homeowner close on the American Dream. Was that mentioned in the article? Countrywide has always had a "cap" on the amount of commission that could be earned on any deal. (Less than half of what some of our competitors charge.) Why wasn't that mentioned? We lead the way against the fight on mortgage fraud. We lead the way in "fair lending" practices. We lead the way in positive customer referrals and survey results.
I guess when you’re the best at what you do, everyone wants to take you down.
Pretty refreshing to see someone suggest that actual evidence should be used when trashing Countrywide. I am very proud to work here.
Kevin Vaughan Branch Manager
I appreciate the article you wrote about my company. We have a lot of people trying to do our best for our valued customers. THANK YOU!
Thank you for your fair and unbiased commentary aimed at Ms. Morgenson's article in the N.Y. Times. Countrywide has been, is currently, and will continue to be America's premier mortgage lender. You can take that to our bank.
Mike Weber Red Bank, N.J.
Thank you for your article about Countrywide. I have worked for Countrywide for over 3 1/2 years and my own home loan is with Countrywide. I have never been so proud to work for a company in my 11 years of being in the mortgage business. I believe that Countrywide holds the highest of standards in every aspect. They truly do help people get into the homes of their dreams at the best programs that fits their needs. That is one of the many reasons I love working for Countrywide. I wouldn't want my own loan with any other company especially given what is happening right now in the mortgage industry. Thank you for standing up for the good guys (Countrywide)
I cannot help but wonder who actually wrote this article and what motivation they had. I find it full of inaccuracies and malicious.
I have not read anything by the author, and I find her credibility weak. My personal experience as a wholesale Alt-A account executive working with several brokers is that Countrywide was held in high regard among the brokers in my area. When the company I worked for went down in this market, Countrywide took me in and has proven to be of the highest integrity to both its customer base and its employees.
Michael Giammatteo Home Loan Consultant Portland, Oregon
What do you think?
Tom Brown is head of BankStocks.com.