FORTUNE –The Federal Reserve’s recent decision to buy mortgage bonds until the economy recovers has made home lending more attractive than it has been in years. The spread between what it costs to fund a mortgage loan and what borrowers actually pay is nearly three times as large as usual. So it’s perhaps no surprise that one of the first firms to rush into this profit-filled fun house is headed by the former executives of the most notorious subprime lender of the era that led to the financial crisis.
Last month, PennyMac (PMT), a finance company run almost entirely by alumni of Countrywide Financial, opened its first retail branch. The company expects to hire as many as 100 employees for the office, which is in Pasadena, California, including loan officers and underwriters.
To head the office, PennyMac has tapped Stephen Brandt, who, according to a Congressional report released in July, ran Countrywide’s “Friends of Angelo” program. The report found that Brandt’s former unit handed out hundreds of sweetheart loans to members of Congress, their staffs and other government employees. One of the main thrusts of the division, according to the report, which was nicknamed after Countrywide’s former CEO, Angelo Mozilo, was to soften anti-predatory lending laws.