The House Ethics Committee found no violations among House members whose mortgage loans funneled through the VIP section of the former Countrywide Financial Corp., the company whose subprime loans helped cause the foreclosure crisis. Countrywide was taken over by Bank of America in 2008.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee reported in July that Countrywide made hundreds of discount loans to buy influence with members of Congress, congressional staff, key government officials and executives of embattled mortgage giant Fannie Mae.
The Oversight report named six current and former members of Congress who received what Countrywide referred to as discounts. The committee has no jurisdiction over actions that occurred more than six years before the current Congress, which began in January 2011.
The actions of the unnamed House staff members were widely criticized. Emails indicated they reached out to Countrywide lobbyists for help with their personal loans. The actions were too old to be in the committee's jurisdiction but the panel said if the incidents had occurred more reentry, the staff members could have faced discipline.
The committee added that participation in the VIP program did not mean borrowers received the best loan deal available - and most lawmakers were not even aware they were placed in a VIP unit. And, even if the statute of limitations had not expired, the committee said, inclusion in the VIP program was not by itself a violation of House rules or laws. The panel said it found that Countrywide's "discounts" applied to standard loan rates that were commercially available elsewhere.