If Angelo Mozilo's lawyers are to be believed, the former orange head of Countrywide can not be sued by the government (for civil purposes obviously, no former banker in the US can ever be held criminally liable under the Obama administration) because he is, well, sick. However, the same disease apparently does not prevent the 75 year old from giving 30 minute telephonic interviews, such as this one he granted to Bloomberg's Max Abelson before Labor Day from his 12,692-square-foot house in Santa Barbara, California.
A brief tangent: "interviews with Mozilo, 75, and three friends show what retirement looks like for a chief executive officer linked to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Remaining out of public view like Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.’s Richard Fuld or Jimmy Cayne of Bear Stearns Cos., Mozilo has submitted plans for Old West-style offices in California, taught students in Italy about finance, invested in a building in the Arizona desert that houses a Taco Bell and written about his life so that his grandchildren will “know the truth."
So what is the truth?
Here are some of the choice excerpts from the man who is "baffled by a new effort to punish him, proud of past triumphs and incensed by criticism."
“You’ll have to ask those people, ‘What do you have against Mozilo, what did he do?’” he said in a 30-minute call with Bloomberg News before Labor Day, one of his few interviews since the firm’s downfall. “Countrywide didn’t change. I didn’t change. The world changed.”
Mozilo doesn’t understand why he and his firm, blamed by lawmakers and authorities for lax underwriting and predatory lending, have been seen as villains.
“No, no, no, we didn’t do anything wrong,” he said, adding that a real estate collapse was the root of the crisis. “Countrywide or Mozilo didn’t cause any of that." Yes, the Moz talks about himself in the third person.
Revisionist history does not stop there at Casa Agent Orange. In fact revisionism is the only game in town:
He focused on his career’s highlights in the interview, recounting one business magazine calling Countrywide “The 23,000% Stock” and another naming him one of the most respected CEOs in the world.
“Go back and you’ll see that Countrywide was one of the most admired companies in the country,” he said. Mozilo added that he has “no idea” why the government is going after him again. “It’s unfortunate, but I try to make the best of it.”
“I don’t have a job, so I have to earn some money, and I do it through investments,” he said. Real estate is still the best option, he said. “Tides go in and out. This is just another tide.”
Perhaps it is time for CNBC to inquire the Moz-man just what stocks he is long here. The good news is that Mozilo's $500+ million of money is certainly not on the sidelines. As for his other investments, here is the answer:
One investment is a stake in a building that houses a Taco Bell outside Phoenix. Mozilo said he hasn’t eaten there because he stays away from chicken and beef.
Another is a project in Templeton, a small Southern California town where he’s requested permits to build a two-story retail and office building on a vacant lot. Architectural sketches show a style suited for a quaint Western main street.
“It’s a throwback to a century ago,” Mozilo said. “I love America. I love everything about America.”
He talks investments with his friend Ken Langone, a founder of Home Depot Inc. “Equities, asset-backed deals, railroad cars, oil and gas,” said Langone, 78. “Private equity, structured finance, you name it.”
But if you can't trade alongside Mozilo, you can surely learn finance from the man whose company has the reputation of being the worst M&A acquisition in history (a deal for which he should be commended: after all trillions in toxic crap is never easy to offload, even if the end buyer is the deadest of the brain dead banks, Bank of America, a deal for which it should forever cower in shame as a result of its impeccable "due diligence").
Mozilo decided to teach undergraduates what he knows about finance last year. The former trustee of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, said he spent about two weeks in Italy at Gonzaga-in-Florence, housed in the Mozilo Center overlooking a 16th-century Medici garden.
“I taught them the basics of finance based on my own experiences,” he said. “I really enjoyed being among them. It was very refreshing for me.”
But the punchline of the profile with the orange glow is surely this:
"Two of his friends, former Countrywide director Robert J. Donato and fellow mortgage-industry veteran Howard Levine, praised his spirit. Levine, a friend for at least 50 years, said Mozilo gives a $5 bill to each homeless person he sees on New York’s Fifth Avenue when they visit from California."
It is unknown how many of these homeless people once used to live in a home with a Countrywide mortgage. In event, money goes full circle and all that.
In conclusion, while Moz is happy to wax philosophic about his life, and asked for a word that describes the state of his life he offered one before hanging up "peace", he will never do so again on the record in a court of law: his lawyers have told prosecutors that Mozilo is ill, the New York Times reported last month. "I’m 75, so I have some health issues that I’m managing,” he said in the call. “I have not gotten my death notice yet."
Or arrest warrant for that matter. Because it the New Wall Street Lackey Normal, there is justice for everyone, and then there are Wall Street criminals, who simply are too "systematically important", even if only for the tanning booth industry, to go to prison.