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Phone Calls Add to Din Over Loans Congressional Investigators Ask for More on Countrywide VIP Mortg


Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is trying to subpoena the remaining records of Countrywide's VIP loan program. So far, the committee's chairman, New York Democratic Rep. Edolphus Towns, has turned down that request.

Associated Press

Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), second from right, speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill earlier this month. Mr. Issa is trying to subpoena the remaining records of Countrywide Financial's VIP loan program.

The committee's Republican staff investigators have spent months looking into the VIP program, and learned of the call-recording system from a former Countrywide employee in June, according to a spokesman for Mr. Issa.

The Issa spokesman said that earlier this month Bank of America Corp., which purchased Countrywide in July 2008, confirmed the existence of the recording system, but said all the VIP program-related calls had been disposed of.

A Bank of America spokesman said in a written statement that the VIP recordings "were retained only for a limited time or until available recording space was utilized. Due to these limitations, we have no recordings from before July 2008 when Bank of America assumed management of Countrywide and terminated the VIP program."

Many companies routinely record phone conversations with customers, both for internal-training purposes and to help resolve disputes over what was said during a call.

On Thursday, Mr. Issa sent a letter to Bank of America Chief Executive Kenneth Lewis with a dozen questions seeking more information on what happened to the recordings. Arguing that those call records could have shed light on what public officials were being told by Countrywide personnel about the favorable treatment they were receiving, Mr. Issa wrote that Bank of America's "refusal to fully explain" what happened to the recordings "raises important questions."

Mr. Issa's letter noted that the VIP program began receiving widespread media attention in early June 2008, nearly a month before Bank of America's Countrywide takeover. Articles focused on prominent individuals who received loans through the program, which often gave lower fees and interest rates and faster service than could be obtained by the general public. Among the prominent VIP program borrowers were two Democratic senators, Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Kent Conrad of North Dakota. Both men have denied wrongdoing, and said they never asked for favorable loan terms from Countrywide.

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