Protesters press Countrywide for help avoiding foreclosure

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) - Homeowners demonstrated outside Countrywide Financial offices Tuesday, demanding the mortgage giant help them avoid foreclosure.

The Mabuhay Alliance, Greenlining Institute and Mexican American Political Association organized the afternoon rally that drew about 60 people in Santa Ana, about 35 miles south of Los Angeles. Similar demonstrations are planned in coming weeks.

The groups want Countrywide to stop foreclosure proceedings on borrowers who are behind in payments and modify adjustable rate mortgage loans that are about to reset to higher payments. They are also asking executives at the company to donate money from bonuses toward a fund for at-risk borrowers.

"These people gamed the system," said Nativo Lopez, president of the Mexican American Political Association. "They continued this game knowing full well that they were bringing borrowers into a market that was turning belly up."

Countrywide said Tuesday about 750 of its Orange County customers will lose their homes to foreclosure by the end of 2007. About 16,000 of customers statewide will foreclose in the same period, the company said.

"Countrywide is ready, willing and able to help borrowers facing financial distress," Countrywide said in a statement. "The company has numerous effective programs to assist borrowers who have the willingness and wherewithal to remain in their homes."

Last month, the company announced it would offer refinancing or modifications on $16 billion in loans with interest rates set to adjust by the end of 2008. Officials have also said they are trying to work out payment plans with borrowers on some 80,000 loans and have already helped more than 55,000 others avoid foreclosure this year.

The company posted a loss of $1.2 billion during the quarter ended Sept. 30, its first quarterly loss in 25 years.

Shares of Countrywide rose 33 cents, or nearly 4 percent, to $8.97 on Tuesday.


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