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House Ethics Committee completes Countrywide review, finds no wrongdoing

Posted: December 28, 2012 5:01 p.m.
Updated: December 28, 2012 5:01 p.m.

The Committee on Ethics for the U.S. House of Representatives has ruled legislators did not receive improper benefits while enrolled in the “VIP” loan unit of the Countrywide Financial Corporation, according to a statement released this week.

One such legislator was local Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa-Clarita, who refinanced a loan on his home in 1998 under terms reserved for people designated as “Friends of Angelo.”

The designation “Friends of Angelo,” named for former Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo, typically gave people access to quicker and more efficient loan processing, as well as some discounts on their loans.

The benefits were also applied to some borrowers not designated “VIP.”

The House Ethics Committee determined Thursday that inclusion in the program did not necessarily indicate any kind of conflict, since neither the “Friends of Angelo” nor VIP designation meant a person was automatically given the most favorable loan terms, and many people received such a designation without their knowledge.

McKeon has repeatedly said he never knew about the “Friends of Angelo” designation.

McKeon released his loan documents to the public earlier this year showing that he paid an above-average interest rate on his housing loan compared to national rates.

“Congressman McKeon is pleased that the conclusions made by the Committee on Ethics confirm what he has always known to be true,” said Alissa McCurley, a spokeswoman for McKeon.

McKeon told The Signal earlier this year that he has received campaign contributions from Countrywide or Bank of America since 1998, including $3,500 in contributions from Countrywide from 1998 to 2006.

McKeon also received $15,000 in contributions from Bank of America from 1992 to 2007. Bank of America bought Countrywide in 2008.

In their statement, members of the Ethics Committee did warn that if a representative had reason to believe he or she was receiving any kind of benefit solely due to position, it was that representative’s responsibility to turn down the benefit.

But no representative or any other elected official is explicitly barred from receiving benefits that are unrelated to the position held, the committee reasoned.

“In other words, while members, officers and employees must not personally benefit in a manner directly caused by their position, they also need not suffer financially due to nothing but their position,” the statement reads.




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