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Stephen C. Petzold: Buck's Countrywide fable

Posted: August 15, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 15, 2012 2:00 a.m.

I have reviewed Congressman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita’s Countrywide loan documents with a great deal of surprise and disappointment.

Following the release of the Issa report, The Signal printed a letter from me titled “Be Fair To Buck.”

Unfortunately, I have now come to the conclusion that Buck McKeon has not been fully transparent or truthful with The Signal or his constituents.

The documents released to the public were limited to the final HUD-I closing statement and Truth in Lending Statement (only page 1 of 2).

I will be kind, and call it a translucent disclosure. The closing statement does reflect the payment of legitimate third-party fees to the title and escrow company, along with fees paid for the appraisal and credit report and prepaid items.

What does not appear are “junk fees,” aka “garbage fees,” charged by the lender. Rather than vindicating McKeon, the documents tend to confirm the charge that Countrywide’s VIP processing staff complied with the inter-office memo of a Countrywide employee reflecting the directions of Angelo Mozilo, “Take off one point, no garbage fees, approve the loan.”

McKeon knows this, but he spins the document to the uninformed as “Hey, look here, I paid closing costs.” This is misleading at best.

What I find even more troubling is that The Signal reviewed these same documents with McKeon and a local mortgage broker, Christopher Mendenhall, in January.

In an article on Jan. 28, written by Executive Editor Jason Schaff, there is a quote from the loan broker,“Mendenhall said the Countrywide documents did have the usual amount of ‘junk fees’ attached to the loan.”

This is manifestly false and your reporter and the readers of The Signal were misled. Christopher Mendenhall is an experienced loan professional and knows the difference between a “junk fee” and other closing costs.

The Signal should print a correction prominently in an upcoming issue of the paper. My letter to the editor relied upon the truthfulness of this statement.

The January article led the reader to believe that there was no basis for serious concern in the Issa investigation. It was printed at a critical time when Buck and his wife, Patricia, were involved in primary election battles for Congress and state Assembly.

Now the public release of the documents puts a prominent stain on the hard news reporting credibility of The Signal. We should both lament this unfortunate fact, and your readers deserve clarification.

Every voter should be concerned by the continued spin and parsing of words by Congressman McKeon regarding the Countrywide investigation.

His story is like a fable spun to promote the singular interest of the author, with no morals at the conclusion for the reader.

My concern goes to McKeon’s credibility on so many other issues upon which he has significant input and decision making authority.

What can we really believe from you, McKeon? This is my question as we approach the election in November.

These are painful observations for this conservative and faithful Republican voter to write. However, the recent document release requires me to face unpleasant facts and share them with your concerned readers.

Last month I called out for everyone to “Be Fair to Buck.” I can no longer be an apologist for him.

Stephen C Petzold is a Saugus resident.


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