The Countrywide Financial mortgage lender unit owned by Bank of America has been ordered to pay $1.3 billion in damages for selling thousands of defective loans.
U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in New York issued the decision for the Countrywide program known in the industry as “The Hustle,” which focused on an initiative to have loan officers churn out our mortgages quickly, with limited focus on the mortgage holders’ ability to repay the loans.
The judge, in a Wednesday afternoon decision, said the program was “the vehicle for a brazen fraud by the defendants, driven by a hunger for profits and oblivious to the harms thereby visited, not just on the immediate victims but also on the financial system as a whole.”
Countrywide, a leading lender during the housing boom, originated or bought about $1.4 trillion in mortgages between 2005 and 2007. Bank of America acquired the Calabasas firm in 2008.
The fine was based on the amount of losses incurred by investors in the loans, including government-sponsored mortgage operations Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
The penalty followed a decision by a federal court jury in October that found the bank liable for selling the faulty loans, even though the actions occurred prior to the Charlotte, N.C. bank buying the lender.
Rakoff also ordered former Countrywide executive Rebecca Mairone to pay $1 million. She currently works for Bank of America. An appeal is expected.
The U.S. Attorney’s office originally sought about $848 million in damages but later pumped up its request to $2.1 billion. Rakoff set it at exactly $1,267,491,770 after deciding many of the loans were legitimate.