BLOG VIEW: A Need For A Wartime Consigliere

Written by John Clapp
on May 21, 2009 No Comments
Categories : Blog View

ivotal scene in Francis Ford Coppola's ‘The Godfather’ comes when Al Pacino, playing newly empowered Michael Corleone, outlines the family's plans for expansion into Las Vegas. [/b]Michael instructs Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall), the family's adopted son and trusted advisor, to take care of the Corleones' legal business – a move that essentially strips Hagen of his ‘consigliere’ title. Tom is initially hurt and confused by the decision, leading Michael to explain that Tom is not a ‘wartime consigliere.’ In other words, while Tom had proven himself capable during the good times, conditions were expected to get worse, and Michael wasn't sure Tom could handle it. This leads me to wonder: Is the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) a wartime consigliere? If you judge by the amount of the organization's activity alone, the quick answer is yes. A scan of the trade group's [u][link=http://www.mortgagebankers.org/Advocacy/]advocacy update[/link][/u] shows that the MBA has a full agenda. It is currently and strongly pushing its Mortgage Improvement and Regulation Act, which serves as an overarching mortgage reform bill. Along with an alphabet soup of mortgage trade groups, the MBA also signed a letter last week addressed to HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, urging the agency to coordinate RESPA and TILA disclosures. MBA Chair David Kittle recently spent a morning with the House Committee on Financial Services, telling Barney Frank and company what it was that the MBA did not like about H.R.1728, the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act. And in case you haven't heard, the MBA has come out against President Obama's 2010 budget, because it reduces the federal co-share for terrorism insurance payments – a critical consideration for the commercial mortgage market. So if the MBA's policy log is full, why am I even questioning whether the industry's lead trade group is a wartime consigliere? It all goes back to the MBA's thoughtless public image, which Phil Hall touched on weeks ago. In his [u][link=http://www.mortgageorb.com/e107_plugins/content/content_lt.php?content.3415]blog, titled "Paying For Another Six Years Of Chris Dodd[/link][/u]," Hall took the MBA to task for contributing to Sen. Chris Dodd's bid for reelection. I agree that any support for Dodd from the mortgage industry is nothing short of baffling, but it's not quite as bad a gaffe as the way the MBA handled the Senate's defeat of bankruptcy reform. The banking community has forever tried to distance itself from the "big, bad bank" image, but this quick [u][link=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vS_6zn3B0pw]clip[/link][/u] from the American News Project does not show progress. At the end of the segment, which covers the cramdown's defeat and subsequent reactions at an MBA conference, MBA Chair Kittle notes the essential role played by lobbyists, adding ominously, "We need to keep giving to the PAC on a regular basis." I'm pretty sure Kittle was referencing the Political Action Committee, but his tone almost suggested "pack" (as in "pack of wolves," perhaps?). Either way, is that really the message that Kittle and the MBA, not to mention its members, want delivered to the mainstream? Put yourself in the shoes of an everyday consumer who probably isn't aware of the argument that cramdowns will increase borrowing costs down the road. Instead, that person is subjected to headlines like this one belonging to a St. Petersburg Times editorial: [u][link=http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/editorials/article998013.ece] "Banks win, homeowners lose in Senate[/u][/link]." Add in Kittle's PAC mentality, and the Senate's vote on cramdowns, which should have been considered a clear victory for mortgage bankers, becomes a PR setback. The cramdown bill's main sponsor, Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., has already made it known that he intends to once again introduce the legislation, which he's brought before Congress twice before the most recent attempt. And in doing so, he's also shone a bright light on the power that bankers wield. "At some point, the senators in this chamber will decide the bankers shouldn't write the agenda for the United States Senate," he said on the floor. "At some point, the people in this chamber will decide the people we represent are not the folks working in the big banks, but the folks struggling to make a living and struggling to keep a decent home." Now, which viewpoint is likely to garner a better response from borrowers? [link=hyperlink url][

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