"Having suffered a barrage of negative headlines while battling to shore up its finances and shrink its work force ... by as much as 20%, the nation's largest home-mortgage lender is launching a PR blitz," with the help of Burson-Marsteller (B-M). Countrywide Financial Corp.'s new slogan is "protect our house." During a September 26 call with 250 company "opinion leaders," Countrywide managing director Drew Gissinger stressed, "Our integrity is being attacked. NOW IT'S PERSONAL!" According to the script for the call, Gissinger encouraged employees to sign a "Protect Our House Pledge" and wear a green wristband. "I want employees to look down at their wristband and remember our fundamental mission to help our customers achieve the American dream," reads the script, "and to help them withstand those malicious outward attacks." B-M's Jason Schechter announced that 25 Burson employees are developing "a very comprehensive external and internal game plan to regain control of the agenda." Writing on Salon.com, Andrew Leonard lists among Countrywide's woes shareholder lawsuits, tanking stock prices, increased foreclosures, and comparisons to Enron and Worldcom. The "average Countrywide employee" may be less than thrilled with the wristbands, Leonard writes, since the CEO "pocketed $138 million last year while 12,000 of your coworkers are about to be fired."
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