The Orange Man pioneered the distribution of neg-am mortgages to the masses, and then hoodwinked Wall Street into thinking the loans were worthy of buying in tranches – yet he didn’t want to take the blame and instead enjoyed his retirement as a member at all the private golf clubs around Brentwood.

Some of his best quotes:

In 2006, when Mozilo was the chief of the mortgage lender Countrywide Financial, the firm originated $461 billion worth of loans — close to $41 billion of which were subprime. Subprime loans were responsible for the global financial crisis.

Mozilo was also charged by securities regulators of insider trading and securities fraud. Once named as one of the best chief executives in the United States, the disgraced CEO was subsequently named as the second worst US chief executive of all time by Conde Nast Portfolio.

“I’m fairly confident that we’re not going to do anything stupid,” he told The Wall Street Journal in 2004 when asked about the risks of a housing bubble. “We have a history of not doing anything stupid.”

Yet Countrywide, like many other lenders, embraced riskier types of loans. By August 2007, Wall Street worried that Countrywide might go bankrupt.

In January 2008, Bank of America agreed to buy Countrywide for what seemed like a bargain-basement price, $2.5 billion, which was less than 10% of what it was worth in 2007.

It was no bargain. The acquisition ended up costing Bank of America tens of billions of dollars in real-estate losses, legal expenses and settlements with regulators.

Mozilo retired from Countrywide, at age 69, a few months after the sale to BofA. Later, the Securities and Exchange Commission accused him of fraud, saying he had offered rosy assessments of Countrywide while dumping nearly $140 million of Countrywide stock.

In 2010, he agreed to settle the SEC’s charges without admitting or denying wrongdoing. He also agreed to pay $67.5 million in penalties; the bulk of that was covered by indemnities from Bank of America.

In interviews in 2018 and 2020, Mozilo told the Journal he had been unfairly singled out for blame in the aftermath of the housing bust. “I was very visible,” he said. “Anytime I was asked to go on TV, I did it.” As a result, he said, “When the s— hit the fan, everybody looked at me.”

Mozilo had defended himself several times against accusations that he was a key architect of the 2007-2009 financial crisis.

“Somehow, for some unknown reason, I got blamed for it,” he earlier said.

Mozilo had reason to cheer as well. In 2006, he was paid $48 million, beating JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon by $10 million and Bank of America CEO Kenneth Lewis by $20 million. From 2000 until 2008, Mozilo received total compensation of $521.5 million, according to Equilar, a compensation-research firm.

Looking back on those boom years, Mozilo said Countrywide had been swept up in a “gold rush” mentality that had overtaken the US. “Housing prices were rising so rapidly — at a rate that I’d never seen in my 55 years in the business — that people, regular people, average people got caught up in the mania of buying a house, and flipping it, making money,” he said in a 2010 interview with the US Congress-appointed Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission.

“Housing suddenly went from being part of the American dream to house my family to settle down — it became a commodity,” he said. “That was a change in the culture.”

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