Countrywide’s Unethical Business Dealings

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It would be convenient to start this research paper by stating that corruption is a challenge mainly for businesses in developing countries and that it is unrelated to the current affliction of the economy in the United States. It would also be convenient to claim corruption has declined in America as a result of awareness raising campaigns and the numerous anti-corruption laws. But none of those aforementioned statements would be true. Corruption is not the exception, but rather the rule in today’s business practices. In 2004, Daniel Kaufmann, a senior fellow at Brookings Institution and former director at the World Bank, calculated an index of "legally corrupt" manifestations which is defined as the extent of undue influence
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Subprime lenders are lenders who, for a price, are willing to assume a higher risk than conventional lenders to purchase or refinance homes (Setzer, 2004). Countrywide’s tactics often led borrowers to expensive and sometimes unfavorable loans that resulted in richer commissions for Countrywide’s sales forces, fees to company affiliates providing services on the loans, and a roaring stock price that made Countrywide executives among the highest paid in America. Countrywide’s entire operation, from its computer system to its incentive pay structure and financing arrangements, was intended to wring maximum profits out of the mortgage lending boom no matter what it cost borrowers (Morgenson, 2007). The company’s incentive system also encouraged brokers and sales representatives to move borrowers into the subprime category, even if their financial position meant that they belonged higher up the loan spectrum. Brokers who peddled subprime loans received commissions of 0.50 percent of the loan’s value, versus 0.20 percent on loans one step up the quality ladder. For years, a software system in Countrywide’s subprime unit, sales representatives used to calculate the loan type that a borrower qualified for, did not allow the input of a borrower’s cash reserves (Morgenson, 2007). A borrower who has more assets poses less risk to a lender and will typically get a
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