All Business at BofA: Countrywide Insider Gissinger Out

When the Countrywide Financial Corp. and Bank of America Corp. (BAC) merger was first announced, we have to confess that our first thoughts weren’t about the servicing portfolio, or collateral performance or bond holder obligations. They were about corporate culture. BofA has long maintained the sort of buttoned-up banker’s attitude traditional for such institutions, while Countrywide was — well, let’s just say they were California to BofA’s New York. That sort of culture clash apparently has led Countrywide Financial Corp.’s Andrew Gissinger III to be replaced by a Bank of America Corp. insider, sources told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. Gissinger was Countrywide’s former No. 3 executive. “Drew” Gissinger, the NFL player turned aggressive speechwriter, headed multiple origination groups while employed under Countrywide, and then Bank of America. In a widely publicized — perhaps infamous — move, the former San Diego Chargers offensive lineman took an offensive stance for Countrywide Financial Corp. with his “Protect Our House” campaign in 2007. In a pep talk to employees Gissinger feigned indignation at the suggestion Countrywide was in trouble; a transcript of his speech is available here. “NOW IT’S PERSONAL!” the transcript read. The situation certainly looks more personal than ever for Gissinger himself these days, who was replaced by long-time BofA executive Craig Buffie. But according to a statement made Tuesday by a Bank of America spokesperson, the change was necessitated by business needs. Buffie has been with the company for more than two decades, and served under multiple disciplines from human resources to management. He is also “the most qualified” candidate to lead Countrywide’s integration into Bank of America, the source told the Wall Street Journal. A look back at Bank of America press statements issued in the wake of the merger shows Barbara Desoer, herself named president of the combined businesses after Countrywide president David Sambol surprisingly stepped aside, touting plans for increased responsible lending and a broader offering of products for Countrywide customers. “Now we begin to combine the two companies and prepare to introduce our new name and way of operating,” Desoer said in a July press release. Apparently, that new way of operating saw no room for the former football jockey, who joined Sambol in being shown the door after the merger. Considering the tumultuous state of mortgage banking and what was formerly known as Wall Street, a return to the NFL might befit Gissinger — but perhaps in a management capacity this time around. Disclosure: The author held no relevant positions when this story was published. Indirect holdings may exist via mutual fund investments. HW reporters and writers follow a strict disclosure policy, the first in the mortgage trade.

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