Every once in a while, we find ourselves surprised and heartened by the selflessness of Wall Street's titans. Like this morning, when we read that Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo was forfeiting the severance pay package he was due when the sale of Countrywide to Bank of America was completed. According to a press release from Countrywide, Mozilo is "entitled" to $36.4 million in cash severance pay and $400,000 per year in consulting fees as well as private-airplane use and other perquisites, but he's giving them up for the greater good of the company. "My primary focus today — as it has been for the past 40 years — is to do what is in the best interests of Countrywide's employees, customers and shareholders," Mr. Mozilo said. "I believe this decision is the right thing to do." Wow, that is so moving. No, we're only kidding. This is absurd. Mozilo's primary focus is covering his ass. Lest we forget, Mozilo already made a killing off the ailing Countrywide. His annual salary was $1.9 million, and between 2005 and 2007, right before the housing market went bust and Countrywide's share price plunged, he sold off the bulk of his stock, to the tune of $300 million. Those sales are the subject of an informal inquiry by the SEC, and next week, Mozilo is being called to Washington to testify in front of the House and Government Reform Committee on the subject of executive pay. If giving up $40 million helps lessen the fire breathed on him by government reformers, so be it. Severance package or no, dude is going to be able to keep himself in tanning beds and tingle lotion for a good long time.
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