By Zachary A. Goldfarb
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
The Senate ethics committee has interviewed a former Countrywide Financial executive who testified under oath that Sens. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) and Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) were aware that they were accessing a special program to give below-market-rate mortgages to the powerful and famous when he arranged their loans, according to the executive's attorneys.
The statements from Robert Feinberg, who worked as a loan officer at the mortgage lender, stand in direct contradiction to statements made by Dodd and Conrad, who maintain that they did not know they were part of the Countrywide program created by its chief executive at the time, Angelo Mozilo.
"He always made a big deal about them being in the VIP program. Does he remember the exact words he spoke with Conrad and Dodd? No, but he always made it clear," said Elana Goldstein, one of Feinberg's attorneys.
Feinberg testified for several hours before the ethics committee on June 23. Questioning him were Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), ranking Republican Johnny Isakson (Ga.) and Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho). Dodd and Conrad responded to questions from the committee last year.
Battered by a swift decline in the market for subprime mortgages, Countrywide accepted a takeover offer from Bank of America in early 2008. Mozilo faces civil fraud and insider-trading charges in connection with Countrywide's lending practices.
"As the Dodds have said from the beginning, they did not seek or expect any special rates or terms on their loans, and they never received any," said Dodd spokesman Bryan DeAngelis. "We are glad to hear that Mr. Feinberg has met with the Senate ethics committee, so we can finally get to the bottom of this matter."
Conrad spokesman Christopher Gaddie said: "Senator Conrad never asked for, expected, or was aware of loans on any preferential terms."
A spokesman for the ethics committee declined to comment.
The Associated Press reported Monday night that Feinberg talked to the ethics committee.