Countrywide, Citigroup and Merrill Lynch CEOs Testify At Congressional Hearing

Washington, D.C.–The CEOs of three companies heavily involved in the subprime mortgage market spoke to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform about the housing market on Friday. CEO compensation–which has risen from 40 times what the average worker made to 600 times in recent years–also came under fire, ABC News reports.Countrywide Financial chairman and chief executive officer Angelo Mozilo, former Merrill Lynch CEO E. Stanley O’Neal and former chairman and CEO of Citigroup Charles Prince did not claim any responsibility for the current housing slump. All three said the housing boom had provided many Americans with a unique opportunity to own their first home.”I am proud of the homeownership opportunities Countrywide has provided for more than twenty million Americans,” said Mozilo, who attributed the current economic state to a series of economic shocks to the housing and capital markets.He also expressed some support for adjustable-rate mortgages.”Much blame has been leveled lately at the variety of products, such as adjustable-rate mortgages,” Mozilo said. “Before the onset of the current housing crisis, these products were widely offered by industry because they made homes more affordable for more people and helped homeowners consolidate other, more expensive debt.”In five years, the three CEOs made more than $460 million in compensation. Although two have stepped down due to the subprime fallout, all three are set to make even more, according to ABC.Countrywide lost $1.6 billion, Merrill Lynch lost $10.3 billion and Citigroup lost $9.8 billion in the second half of last year.