Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, expanded a prior investigation into the Countrywide Financial Corporation’s infamous VIP loan program by issuing a wide-ranging subpoena aimed at exposing more information about the mortgage giant’s efforts to win friends and influence people at the highest levels of government.
Issa’s subpoena, announced Wednesday night, was sent to Bank of America, which purchased Countrywide just before the height of the economic crisis. The subpoena asks for all documents and requests related to Countrywide’s VIP program, which implicated Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) and former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), the then-chairman of the Banking Committee.
Both senators had VIP loans but denied knowing they had personally benefited from the VIP program. A Senate Ethics Committee determined that the terms of their loans were similar to other members of the public, but they warned both senators to be more prudent about the perception of special treatment in the future.
In late 2008, Issa won a hard-fought battle to convince Chairman Edolphus Towns (D-NY) to issue subpoenas in the matter. But the subpoenas to Bank of America at that time were more limited in scope. The new Issa subpoenas have a deadline of March 7 and call for all information related to covered borrowers serviced by Countrywide Financial through Branch 850, the branch Issa has determined as the headquarters of the VIP operation.
Bank of America will be forced to produce, all documents, including e-mails, between Countrywide officials notifying a covered borrower of membership in the VIP and/or Friends of Angelo program or between and among Countrywide officials discussing the purposes and goals of the VIP program.
Issa also is specifically requesting documents showing the number of people enrolled in the VIP and/or Friends of Angelo program from 1996 to 2008, and the city and state of residence of such persons who were covered borrowers.
Such a broad dragnet could implicate other members of Congress and their aides who participated in the program. The Wall Street Journal wrote a series of articles implicating Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY), who chaired the oversight committee at the time, as a member of the VIP program.
“This subpoena will allow us to obtain the information needed to answer the outstanding public interest questions regarding the full size and scope of the VIP program,” Issa said in a statement. “The American people have a right to know the totality of who participated in the Countrywide’s VIP program and what they did in return for access to it. Our role is to get all of the facts so that the American people can judge for themselves who should be held responsible and accountable.”