A few days ago, I heard about the University of San Diego’s annual real estate conference coming up next week. The themes and the panel discussions are on the capital markets, trends in commercial real estate and sustainable real estate, and I’m planning to go listen (and to report back to you Survival-ites).
But this bit caught my eye:
Angelo Mozilo, chairman and CEO of Countrywide Financial Corp., headquartered in Calabasas, Calif., will be the keynote speaker.
Mozilo and Countrywide Financial Corp., for which he serves as CEO, have come under a lot of scrutiny in recent months. Why? The country’s staggering under a mortgage meltdown, and Countrywide is the biggest mortgage lender. There’s more to it, far more than I can summarize myself. For starters, here’s the LA Times today on bankruptcy fears for the mortgage giant.
Mozilo has become, in the blogosphere (like in the LA Times‘ real estate blog) and in some financial journalism, a symbol/scapegoat of the mortgage industry’s avarice during the boom and subsequent seeming avoidance of responsibility the ensuing mess. The company and other lenders steered many borrowers into subprime or other risky loans when they would’ve qualified for less expensive, conventional loans, the Countrywide critics say.
Today, I received this link in my inbox: disinvitemozilo.com. The website decries the university’s invitation to the controversial company chief. I called Bonnie Russell, the woman listed as the press contact for this group, to find out about the effort. She told me there’d be signs and a demonstration on the day of the conference at USD.
“There is a bunch of people who are outraged by this,” she said. “One of the topics is sustainable real estate — but there’s nothing sustainable about his company torpedoing real estate values.”
She didn’t have an exact number of supporters, but of the response she told me, “It’s large and it makes me giggle.”
Russell identified herself as the owner of 1st-pick.com, an attorney-finding website, and as a pro-bono negotiator for homeowners who’ve been “ripped off by Countrywide” — helping them navigate the system to get some relief for their troubling mortgages.
She said the university, by having Mozilo speak, is giving him a platform for his “arrogance and indifference to the situations of many people’s lives,” referring to those who are facing foreclosure.
I put a call in to USD but have yet to receive a response. I’ll keep you posted.