A big credit to The Wall Street Journal for its scoop Saturday on what will no doubt be a Story to Watch: Countrywide, that always-on-the-up-and-up home lender, is under investigation by the FBI for securities fraud.
Here’s the major new info, which the Journal buries in the eighth paragraph:
Another potential issue facing the company is whether it has been candid in its accounting for losses. People familiar with the matter said that Countrywide’s losses may be several times greater than it has disclosed.
There are more uh-ohs in the previous paragraph:
Federal investigators are looking at evidence that may indicate widespread fraud in the origination of Countrywide mortgages, said one person with knowledge of the inquiry. If borne out, that could raise questions about whether company executives knew about the prospect that Countrywide’s mortgage securities would suffer many more defaults than predicted in offering documents.
We applaud the WSJ for its excellent reporting here, which forced the Times, FT, Bloomberg and others to play catch-up on Sunday.
Further credit to the Journal for the story packaged with its Countrywide scoop on A3 (which strangely, appears not to be online). We’ll give you the flavor. Here’s the lede:
With home foreclosures sweeping the country and his own company beset by huge losses, Angelo Mozilo, chief executive of mortgage giant Countrywide Financial Corp., finally apologized—for the tone of an email complaining about reimbursement for his wife’s travel expenses… Mr. Mozilo didn’t apologize for his company’s performance or the problems that threaten to put hundreds of thousands of families out of their homes.
There aren’t going to be too many tears shed for Mozilo if the investigation above leads to the Orange One.
We like the Journal’s putting aside stuffy journalism convention and calling a spade a spade.
Out of service
We tend to focus our critical eyes less on the “news you can use” bits of the business press. Service journalism is as service journalism does. But sometimes a column is so goofy we just can’t not mention it.
So it is with the WSJ’s phoned-in Marketplace-front column, “How to Hunt for Jobs As Time Out of Work Drags On and On,” last week. Helpful tips include revamp the resume and get out of the house. Thanks for pointing that out!
Even tiny fixes enhance the document’s appeal, such as an easy-to-read format and plenty of white space. Similarly, “a subtle variation in font choice can sometimes help a résumé stand out from the crowd,” suggests Alex Douzet, a founder of TheLadders.com, an employment Web site.
If a font is keeping you from getting a job we think there are deeper problems for your search, which the WSJ acknowledges. We’ll ease up a bit on the column since it does include some interesting numbers about unemployment trends:
About 18.3% of jobless Americans in January had been out of work for at least 27 weeks. The figure far exceeds the 11.1% of those who had gone as long without work when a recession began in March 2001.
But back on the debit side of the ledger, the WSJ plies us with corporate-consultant speak, telling us to pursue the ever-popular “build your personal brand” strategy. “Ask yourself and acquaintances, ‘Why is this product not selling?’ recommends Dave Opton, CEO of ExecuNet, a career and business network in Norwalk, Conn.” Yech.
The content is weak, the anecdotes don’t really work—why is this on B1 of The Wall Street Journal?
Foreclosures are good for economists
Robert J. Samuelson writes the classic “easy for him to say” opinion column
in Newsweek and The Washington Post—he’s against helping homeowners:
The understandable impulse to minimize foreclosures should not be a pretext to prop up the housing market by rescuing too many strapped homeowners. Though cruel, foreclosures and falling home values have the virtue of bringing prices to a level where housing can escape its present stagnation. Helping today’s homeowners makes little sense if it penalizes tomorrow’s homeowners. An unstoppable free-fall of prices seems unlikely. Slumping home construction and sales have left much pent-up demand. What will release that demand are affordable prices.
Foreclosures would help the housing market, huh? That’s a roundabout way of looking at things. Talk about the classic economist’s lost-in-his-textbooks myopia. Is it really better to stand by and let millions lose their homes just so the market can become more efficient more quickly? We’d beg to differ.