Cutbacks at industry giant bring loss of employment

Times Staff Writers


Mortgage loan processor

A few weeks ago, Kristi Beason and her colleagues at a Countrywide Financial Corp. branch in Bakersfield had two surprise visitors. The executives from the regional office had bad news: The office on Camino Media would be closed, and nearly all of the 15 workers there would lose their jobs.

“They gave us our final paychecks and told us to clean out our desks,” said Beason, who worked for the company for four years, most recently as a loan processor. “They had a cleaning lady there with boxes waiting for us.”


Beason, 27, said the layoffs were unexpected, even though she knew the business was turning sour.

With home sales slowing, fewer people needed loans. Lenders had also tightened standards, denying mortgages to people with shaky credit in reaction to rising defaults.

Other mortgage companies had ordered layoffs and some had gone bankrupt. But Countrywide, as the biggest U.S. mortgage lender, didn’t seem likely to be laying people off, Beason said.

“Being with a company for that long, it was just a shock,” she said. “I wasn’t really sure what to do.”

In retrospect, however, the signs of trouble were there. The Bakersfield office closed just 12 loans in the month leading up to the layoffs, compared with about 50 a month when the market was doing well, she said.

Now Beason is struggling to cover her numerous monthly expenses, including $1,200 in rent, a car payment and credit card bills. She’s already used up most of the two weeks’ severance and vacation pay that Countrywide provided upon her departure. She is worried that she might soon have to borrow money from her friends.

To help make ends meet, Beason said her live-in boyfriend, Brent Marley, had been working more hours at his job as a waiter. She expects to get about $400 a week in unemployment for six months, about 60% of what she made at Countrywide.

Her job search has been slow. She has visited a career services center and has looked into a few openings, but the salaries were “not anything near what I was making,” she said.


“I have to continue looking and hope I find something,” she said. “I think I will.”