LOS ANGELES Countrywide Financial Corp CFC.N
Chief Executive Angelo Mozilo has been sued by a pension fund
that accused the largest U.S. mortgage lender of helping
executives pocket improper gains by artificially inflating its
stock price through share buybacks.
The New England Teamsters & Trucking Industry Pension Fund
accused Mozilo, other Countrywide executives and the company's
board of directors of gross mismanagement for improperly using
$2 billion of cash to repurchase stock.
It said the move allowed executives to sell $842 million of
Countrywide shares at artificially high prices between April
2004 and October 2007, at the expense of ordinary
Countrywide had no immediate comment on the lawsuit.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court,
cited news reports that insider share sales at Countrywide
reached a 5-year peak in March 2007, four months before the
company posted a 33 percent drop in second-quarter earnings and
slashed its full-year earnings forecast.
On Oct. 26, Countrywide posted a $1.2 billion third-quarter
loss, but projected a fourth-quarter profit. The company's
shares have fallen by about 60 percent so far this year.
Calabasas, California-based Countrywide is at the center of
the subprime mortgage meltdown in which rising interest rates
have forced tens of thousands of homeowners nationwide to
default on adjustable-rate mortgages.
The shareholder derivative lawsuit was filed by securities
class-action specialist Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins.
Shareholder derivative actions allow a shareholder to bring
claims of mismanagement on behalf of the company.
The pension fund said it owns more than 125,000 Countrywide
shares, and has been a stockholder since 1997.
In addition to Mozilo, the lawsuit names President and
Chief Operating Officer David Sambol; Executive Managing
Directors Carlos Garcia, Ranjit Kripalani and Andrew Gissinger
III; Chief Legal Officer Sandor Samuels and Chief Financial
Officer Eric Sieracki.
It also names board members Oscar Robertson, Michael
Dougherty, Robert Donato, Jeffrey Cunningham, Harley Snyder,
Martin Melone, Keith Russell, Robert Parry and former directors
Stanford Kurland, Ben Enis, Edwin Heller, Henry Cisneros,
Kathleen Brown, as well as Countrywide's auditor KPMG.