The SEC is at it again. They’re bragging that the agency nailed the largest penalty of its kind in history against the king of the subprime lenders for defrauding his shareholders.
And no doubt, $65 million dollars sounds like a lot of money.
But when you remember how much money Angelo Mozilo raked in during his reign, and when you break down the details of the SEC fine, it doesn’t add up.
It certainly doesn’t add up to much in the way of punishing Mozilo.
As usual when the SEC settles the civil charges it files, Mozilo and his two former colleagues admitted no wrongdoing as part of their settlement.
The SEC accused Mozilo, the butcher’s son who rose to be the president of Countrywide, of keeping from shareholders his fears that his collection of subprime loans was trash while reassuring his stockholders that everything was hunky-dory.
Federal prosecutors are still poking around in the ashes of Countrywide, and maybe they will come up with something.
But so far here’s the scorecard on Mozilo: the SEC said he received $141.7 million as a result of fraud and insider trading. They fined him $22.5 million.
As the Center for Public Integrity points out, that means he has give back just 16 cents of every ill-gotten dollar he got.
In addition, the SEC touts the $45 million that Mozilo will have to turn over to Bank of America shareholders, though that money won’t come out of Mozilo’s very deep pockets. That will come from his insurer and the company that bought Countrywide, Bank of America.
The fines seem even slighter when you contemplate what Mozilo was paid in his days as master of the universe.
In his time as executive chairman of Countrywide between 1999 and 2008, he was paid a total of $410 million in salary, bonuses and stock options.
In 2007, when the company’s stock tanked, dropping from $40 to under $10, Mozilo had an off-year too. He was only paid $10.8 million.
In perspective, this doesn’t seem like much for the SEC to brag about. Sixteen cents on the dollar certainly isn’t going to strike fear into the heart of any business titan.