But such personal favors were a sideshow compared with Countrywide's biggest blunder -- its full-on push this decade into sub-prime lending, taking on independent niche players like Ameriquest Mortgage Co. and New Century Financial Corp., and option ARMs, where the competition was thrifts such as World Savings of Oakland, Washington Mutual of Seattle and IndyMac Bank of Pasadena.
As the competition intensified for these risky loans in 2006, Countrywide joined the other lenders in relaxing its standards for borrowers, allowing lower credit scores and higher loan balances. In many cases, it lent without documenting borrowers' incomes.
As defaults mounted in late 2006 and early 2007, Mozilo swore he would ride out the industry's turmoil and emerge bigger than ever. But it was not to be.
"I've always told my colleagues at Countrywide not to fear change but instead to embrace it," Mozilo said Wednesday as shareholders voted to approve the sale of Countrywide to Bank of America.