Argent Mortgage, the nation's largest subprime wholesaler, on Monday trimmed 15% of its work force (600 positions), citing a "challenging economic environment" in the industry.Mortgage officials told MortgageWire about the layoffs, and the company confirmed the job cuts late Monday. A company spokesman could offer no details about the job cuts, but most were believed to be production-related. Back in November Argent's affiliate, Ameriquest Mortgage, laid off 10% of its workers (800 positions). Both units are based in Orange, Calif. The mortgage lending industry as a whole -- prime and subprime alike -- is suffering from slim profit margins and reduced loan volumes. A few days before the Argent layoff, its parent company, ACC Capital Holdings, agreed to pay $325 million to settle claims with 49 states that Ameriquest Mortgage had engaged in abusive lending practices. Argent was not a party to the settlement.

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