Saturday, February 23, 2008

Countrywide . . . the band played on

or squeezing the last drops from the lemon.

Wall Street Journal:

Countrywide Financial Corp., the nation's largest mortgage lender by loan volume, will host about 30 representatives of smaller mortgage banks for three nights next week at the Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch ski resort in Avon, Colo. At one of the country's most-glamorous skiing spots, a regular room on a weekday starts at $750.

The first items on the agenda for guests arriving Monday evening: Cocktails and ski fittings. Next is dinner at the Spago restaurant, whose menu includes Kobe steak with wasabi potato puree for $105. (For the budget-minded, pan-roasted buffalo filet with Kabocha pumpkin flan is $54.)

The annual event is for bankers at correspondent lenders, which originate loans and then sell them to Countrywide. The Calabasas, Calif., lender is paying for hotel rooms, meals, skiing and tips, according to a program distributed to attendees.

The schedule calls for four-hour business meetings Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, followed by skiing and dinner. Those dinners are at Zach's Cabin, where diners arrive by sled, and at Larkspur in Vail, Colo., where the menu includes California farmed Alverta President caviar, listed at $140.50.


Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat who has been pushing Countrywide and others to do more for people facing foreclosure, called on Countrywide to cancel the trip and devote the money to refinancing distressed homeowners.

A Countrywide spokesman declined to comment. The company has argued in recent news releases that it is making efforts to keep distressed borrowers in their homes. Among those are agreements with nonprofit consumer-advocacy groups to negotiate loan workouts for borrowers. A Bank of America spokesman declined to discuss Countrywide's hospitality.

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