In the summer of 2007, executives at Countrywide Financial Corp. were desperate to move away from the slumping market for subprime mortgages and into higher quality loans.
Their solution was to create a program called the “High Speed Swim Lane”—HSSL, or “hustle”—that pared back checks on loan quality so mortgages could be approved more quickly.
That prompted concerns from some employees. Ed O’Donnell, the former head of underwriting at Countrywide, sent an email that summer with a long list of questions from employees, including, “Does this mean we no longer care about quality?”
The unit’s chief operating officer, Rebecca Mairone, simply responded: “So it sounds like it may work. Is that what I’m hearing?”