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Angelo Mozilo, former CEO of Countrywide Financial, has agreed to pay a settlement of $22.5 million resulting from charges that he and two other executives from the firm misled investors during the emergence of the subprime mortgage crisis. As part of the settlement, Mozilo is also permanently banned from serving as an officer or director of any public company.
The announcement was made by the SEC on Friday. In addition to the settlement, Mozilo must also disgorge $45 million of “ill-gotten gains,” a result of insider trading and disclosure violations. The whole of the $67.5 million is to be returned to investors who were hurt by Mozilo’s actions.
David Sambol and Eric Sieracki, also former executives of Countrywide—COO and CFO, respectively—also agreed to settlements. Sambol must disgorge $5 million and pay a penalty of $520,000, and is subject to a three-year bar against serving as an officer or director; Sieracki is on the hook for a penalty of $130,000, and is barred for one year from practicing before the SEC. Those penalties and disgorgement will also be returned to investors.
In settling, the three neither admit nor deny the charges that were filed against them.
The charges were filed on June 4, 2009, and alleged, according to the SEC’s website, that the three “failed to disclose to investors the significant credit risk that Countrywide was taking on as a result of its efforts to build and maintain market share.” Countrywide was alleged to have known that the loans it was writing were problematic and that the loans it sold as mortgage-backed securities were on the road to default. The SEC also alleged that Mozilo “engaged in insider trading in the securities of Countrywide by establishing four 10b5-1 sales plans in October, November and December 2006 while he was aware of material, non-public information concerning Countrywide’s increasing credit risk and the risk regarding the poor expected performance of Countrywide-originated loans.”
Robert Khuzami, director of the SEC's Division of Enforcement, said in a statement, “Mozilo’s record penalty is the fitting outcome for a corporate executive who deliberately disregarded his duties to investors by concealing what he saw from inside the executive suite—a looming disaster in which Countrywide was buckling under the weight of increasing risky mortgage underwriting, mounting defaults and delinquencies, and a deteriorating business model.”
While the penalties sound severe, Mozilo and his two associates avoided going to trial by agreeing to the settlements, and, according to a report in TheLos Angeles Times, Mozilo’s will be paid by Bank of America, which bought Countrywide in 2008, and by Countrywide’s insurers, “under terms of Mozilo's employment contract.”