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I heard this evening from Pamela Gray Payton, spokeswoman for the University of San Diego. She was calling me to respond to my earlier post about a local group protesting the invitation extended to Countrywide Financial Corp. CEO Angelo Mozilo for the university’s upcoming real estate conference.

She said the university wouldn’t disinvite Mozilo, as the group has suggested, but would welcome his perspective as an industry leader. She said she hoped the conference would be a place for that dialogue to start.

“What we are trying to maintain is that Mr. Mozilo is a leader in his industry, a respected person,” she said.

She stressed that the university empathizes with families who are facing foreclosure and that the university didn’t endorse putting people in loans they couldn’t afford.

But there’s still merit to having him speak at a forum, she said, to provide the place for dialogue.

“It’s not uncommon that there are going to be some voices that some might find troublesome,” she said. “The important point here is that Mr. Mozilo has been a leader for decades and there is certainly something that we can learn from listening to him.”

Mozilo and Countrywide made the news tonight as the New York Times reported on a potential takeover of the lender by Bank of America and the LA Times estimates Mozilo’s severance pay in the deal to be more than $110 million.

KELLY BENNETT

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