House Committee Issues Subpoena in Countrywide Probe
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee issued a subpoena Friday night demanding loan information related to all current and former House Members who may have received mortgages from Countrywide Financial’s VIP loan program — but it will take precautions not to identify incumbent lawmakers during its investigation.According to a copy of the subpoena posted late Friday evening, the committee has called for “all documents, including e-mails, related to covered borrowers serviced by Countrywide Financial through the Branch 850 and/or VIP and/or Friends of Angelo program,” the loan designation designed by Countrywide chief executive Angelo Mozilo to curry favor with key decision-makers.The committee’s “covered borrowers” include House lawmakers, House aides and officers, as well as federal agency officers or employees and state and local government employees.The subpoena also provided specific instructions for any loan documents tied to current Members of Congress, requiring Bank of America, which owns Countrywide, to obscure identifying details before submitting the materials to the Oversight panel.In addition, an unredacted version of those same documents will be filed to the House ethics committee.”Documents identifying information about current Members of the United States Congress, and their spouses, shall be segregated from other records and delivered to the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct in Room HT2 of the Capitol,” the subpoena states. “You shall consult with Committee staff regarding the method of delivery prior to sending any material.”Any documents identifying former House Members and current or former House aides — as well as other federal employees or officials — are to be provided to the oversight committee in unredacted form, however.While the House ethics committee could opt to investigate sitting Members should the loan documents reveal potential violations of the chamber’s rules or federal laws, the ethics panel does not have jurisdiction over former House lawmakers.The seven-page subpoena, addressed to John Collingwood, Bank of America’s director of federal government relations, requires the documents and other materials, including recorded phone calls, to be produced by Nov. 6.Oversight Chairman Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) announced Friday that the panel would investigate the Countrywide VIP loan program as part of a larger review of mortgage lenders. Ranking member Darrel Issa (R-Calif.) had pursued a Countrywide investigation for months without the panel’s formal blessing.In a statement issued late Friday night after committee leaders finalized the subpoena, Towns said: “It is my goal to conduct a complete review of the role of mortgage companies in the current financial crisis. As part of this, we need to clarify unanswered questions about Countrywide Financial’s VIP program.”In the same statement, Issa said: “I commend Chairman Towns for issuing a subpoena to Bank of America that has bipartisan support. I expect this subpoena will further pull the curtain back on questions that have continued to linger around Countrywide’s intentions and use of the VIP program.”The subpoena Friday followed a week of partisan tensions within the committee over Issa’s demand to subpoena Countrywide, including an incident this week in which Democratic staff changed the locks on the door Republicans use to access the main committee chamber and declined to provide the minority staff with new keys.