Boehner Urges Countrywide Probe

Posted June 25, 2008 at 2:18pm

House Republicans urged Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) on Wednesday to investigate reports that Countrywide Financial provided special rates to “VIP” borrowers, including two Democratic Senators.

House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) joined members of the conservative Republican Study Committee in calling for committee hearings to begin before the House takes up a major housing bill.

“Chairman Frank and Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi should begin immediate hearings to examine the special ‘VIP’ housing perks that Countrywide gave powerful Congressional Democrats at the same time it was hiking mortgage rates on American families,” Boehner said in a statement.

Both Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) received favorable mortgages from Countrywide, although both lawmakers denied wrongdoing and said they had no knowledge of receiving special rates or discounted loans.

Dodd has denied that he received a better rate than was commercially available at the time, although he said he was informed he was granted “VIP” status. Conrad, however, donated $10,5000 to charity in an effort to rescind the benefit, while he plans to refinance an existing mortgage.

In a response issued earlier this month, after the first reports on Countrywide’s “VIP” program, Frank indicated he would not investigate the matter.

“I do not think it is appropriate for the Committee on Financial Services to divert its attention from the crowded agenda we already have because, if things go well, Countrywide will soon no longer be on the scene,” Frank said in a mid-June statement, referring to Bank of America’s expected acquisition of Countrywide.

He added: “As Chairman of the Committee on Financial Services, I have continued a practice that the Committee followed under my predecessor, Chairman Michael Oxley [R-Ohio]. That is, we have not focused on individual accusations of abuse but rather have sought to address policy questions and to make improvements in the policy process.”

“It is of course the case that today there are allegations that particular individuals behaved inappropriately in their dealings with Countrywide. My view is that these allegations should be considered by the appropriate bodies, and I understand that the Senate Ethics Committee has already begun to look into the matter.”