Magazine article American Banker

Countrywide Lobbyist Tackles Images, Issues

Magazine article American Banker

Countrywide Lobbyist Tackles Images, Issues

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Countrywide Credit Industries has become the first independent mortgage banking company in a decade to have its own lobbyist here.

"Our growth has been exponential, and we've become well-known in the real estate community, but less known among government policymakers," says lobbyist Kirk Willison.

His assignment: to raise Countrywide's profile and distance it from negative images of mortgage bankers.

"The fact of the matter is, Countrywide perhaps isn't a typical mortgage bank," Mr. Willison says. "We don't want to necessarily be thrown into the pool where people are saying that mortgage banks aren't performing, especially in the areas of fair housing. So perhaps it's an opportunity for us to say, 'Look at us, we are different.'"

He has spent his first weeks in town calling on key members of Congress and their staffs on Capitol Hill. His calling card is a score sheet of Countrywide's business in the member's district. That changes the way people see the company, from a California-based interest to one that has impact in the member's district, Mr. Willison says.

Top items on Mr. Willison's lobbying agenda include fighting tighter escrow legislation and the extension of Community Reinvestment Act-type standards to mortgage bankers.

Those are also the top priorities of the Mortgage Bankers Association, the trade group that Countrywide's vice chairman, Angelo Mozilo, headed a few years ago.

So why does Countrywide need its own lobbyist here? …

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