Countrywide Financial Corp. has begun laying off an unspecified number of workers in its Full Spectrum Lending unit, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing an e-mail sent Friday to employees of the division.

The unit handles Alt-A mortgages, which Countrywide has announced it will cut back on in an effort to make 90 percent of the loans it originates eligible for repurchase by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac or consistent with its banking division’s investment criteria.

Countrywide did not respond to requests for comment from Inman News.

Countrywide and other mortgage lenders are facing difficulties obtaining short-term loans and selling the loans they originate in the secondary market.

Countrywide officials say they plan to weather the difficult period by moving all mortgage loan production from Countrywide Home Loans Inc. to Countrywide Bank by the end of September.

In an internal memo obtained by Inman News last week, company executives said that strategy was not expected to “materially change the way we operate, our key strategies, or our desire and intent to continue to be the dominant mortgage lender in the U.S.”

The memo, sent to employees Thursday, said Countrywide was in the process of hiring “several hundred loan officers” from competitors that have gone out of business.

In reporting its July results, Countrywide said it continued to add employees as part of the company’s strategy to take market share from competitors during the housing downturn. Countrywide reported hiring 787 new employees in loan originations, servicing and closing in July.

For the year ending in July, total employment in loan originations rose 6.4 percent to 34,326, the company said. The total headcount at Countrywide increased by nearly 10 percent during the period, to 61,586.

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