R.I.P. Countrywide

Bank of America banishes the infamous brand name. But the spirit of the nation's one-time largest mortgage lender will not be so easy to dismiss.

Published May 15, 2009 9:19PM (EDT)

Meet the new mortgage lender. Same as the old mortgage lender.

I received my monthly home loan statement today. Same as it ever was, with one difference: The Countrywide logo had been replaced by the Bank of America logo.

Bank of America absorbed Countrywide more than a year ago, but I guess the job of disappearing America's largest mortgage lender takes more than a day or two. The timing is definitely sweet: With former Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo about to face charges of insider trading from the SEC, Bank of America is probably delighted to see the much beleaguered brand-name vanish from the face of the earth.

And yet: Countrywide may be gone, but its spirit lives on. It's not just that almost nothing has changed on the mortgage statement, aside from the logos and a couple of phone numbers. Accompanying my statement, I also received a separate Bank of America-branded envelope, with the return address of Agoura Road, Westlake Village, Calif. I recognized that address immediately, because over the past half dozen years I have received umpteen million Countrywide entreaties from that same location, all begging me to refinance my home loan with one exotic mortgage product or another.

And so it was again: Only this time it is Bank of America Home Loans, and not Countrywide, ready to pummel me with the friendly message that it is "committed to providing you with new opportunities that fit your home financing needs today, and your plans for tomorrow."

There's something to be said for consistency. The king is dead. Long live the king.

UPDATE: The Baseline Scenario's James Kwak has a suspiciously similar experience!

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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