Earlier this year, Bank of America Corp. (BofA) and mortgage-finance firm Fannie Mae finally buried the hatchet concerning the bank’s ill-fated purchase of Countrywide Financial Corp., settling out of court with multibillion dollar settlements that resulted in BofA buying back nearly $7 billion in bad loans.
However, just because the civil litigation between BofA and Fannie Mae was settled long ago does not mean that Countrywide is off the hook. Former Countrywide executive Rebecca Mairone took the stand in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Oct. 15 in order to defend her former company from allegations of fraud.
The U.S. government alleges that Countrywide and BofA defrauded Fannie Mae and similar mortgage-finance firm Freddie Mac through a program called the High Speed Swim Lane, also known as Hustle. In Hustle, the government says, Countrywide systematically removed quality controls and relied more heavily on automated loans, resulting in a higher loan default rate.
Mairone, who now works as an executive at J.P. Morgan Chase, claims she did not ignore the concerns of the automation program, like the government claims. Instead, according to The Wall Street Journal, Marrone told the court that she believed Hustle would increase overall loan quality by making the loan process more efficient and streamlined, limiting the people processing loans.
In addition, Mairone fought back against statements by Ed O’Donnell, former Countrywide head of underwriting, who claimed that Mairone appeared to ignore concerns from employees about Hustle. In response, the defense painted O’Donnell as a jealous rival who purposefully put forth only potential negatives about the program in an attempt to undermine his boss Mairone.
Mairone could face civil penalties of as much as $1 million if the government finds her guilty of fraud, in addition to unspecified damages from Countrywide. For his part, O’Donnell could win as much as $1.6 million as a reward if the government wins its case. The government alleges Countrywide made $165 million from the Hustle program, while Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac suffered net losses of $131 million.