BLOG VIEW: You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout – I'm telling you why! Yes, I am back in town with my annual bag of goodies for the naughty and nice folks that influence the mortgage banking industry. So spice the eggnog, get out the Burl Ives records and let's divvy up this year's holiday gifts.
For Richard Cordray: A six-month internship at a mortgage servicing company. The director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has spent the past year offering a level of criticism against servicers that is uncommonly harsh for a federal regulator. Indeed, some of the comments made by Cordray give the impression that he may not be fully aware of what servicers do for a living. Perhaps walking that proverbial mile in their shoes might help him dial down on the angry talk and realize that servicers do not exist to harass and cheat homeowners.
For Steve Gluckstern: An eviction notice. Gluckstern, a former executive for Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Insurance Group, is the guy who proposed that screwball eminent domain plan that would enable local governments to seize performing underwater mortgages, restructure them and then resell them to investors connected to Gluckstern's company, Mortgage Resolution Partners. Since Gluckstern has no problems taking away property that doesn't belong to him, logic would dictate that he shouldn't mind if we help ourselves to his property.
For the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA): The Profile in Courage Award. This organization boldly took the leadership role in openly challenging Gluckstern's eminent domain scheme, both through its own vigorous advocacy outreach and by uniting a coalition of rival trade organizations into a coalition of industry leaders that called for the rejection of the eminent domain scheme. Indeed, SIFMA was such a potent force that California's publicity hungry Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom falsely accused it of ‘making threats to the local officials of San Bernardino County.’ If the eminent domain nonsense completely evaporates in 2013, we have SIFMA to thank for that.
For David H. Stevens: The collected works of Ayn Rand. It seems that the president and CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association has been part of the Washington scene for a little too long. During the trade group's annual convention, Stevens pointed to the surplus of federal regulatory agencies responsible for the financial services industry – there are currently nine of them – and he suggested that the White House create a new housing policy office of Housing Policy Coordinator to direct this bureaucratic traffic. Yes, only in Washington could someone propose streamlining bureaucracy by creating a new level of bureaucracy on top of the existing mess.Â
For Ben Bernanke: An early retirement package. Has the Federal Reserve chief ever pinned the tail on the donkey? He claimed the subprime crisis would have no effect on the economy in 2007, he insisted that the housing market showed signs of bottoming in 2009, and earlier this year it was discovered that the Fed provided billions in bailout funds to banks in such economically destitute nations as Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Bahrain, Malaysia and Taiwan. Ben, there's a desk and a classroom waiting for you at Princeton, just down the hall from Paul Krugman.
For Sen. Rand Paul: A soapbox with wheels. The Kentucky Republican disrupted the legislative effort to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program by attaching a wholly irrelevant amendment that sought to ‘ensure equal protection for right to life of each born and preborn human person.’ While I respect the senator's sincerity in fighting for the rights of the unborn, there is a time and place for everything – and this was clearly the wrong time and place for such an action. Paul laughed off the anger created by his action by saying, ‘Yeah, can you believe that they're exasperated with me?’ Yeah, we can!
For the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC): A big bouquet of organically grown roses. The nonprofit USGBC has effectively inspired the private sector to see the economic benefits of incorporating energy efficiency and environmental conservation strategies into commercial and residential real estate. The industry has benefited substantially thanks to this organization, and (even better) it hasn't cost taxpayers a cent.
For Elizabeth Warren: A year's subscription to Secondary Marketing Executive and Servicing Management. The architect of the CFPB is coming back to Washington in January, this time as the new junior senator from Massachusetts. However, Warren may not be up to speed on the happenings of the industry that she is so fond of criticizing, so the best possible present for her are the best magazines covering mortgage banking. And, hey, I won't be upset if she only reads the magazines' editorials!
For the MortgageOrb readers: My deepest and warmest thanks for your support, encouragement, input and advocacy for this website and for my weekly blog. During the past year, the positive feedback that I've received from the industry – via e-mail, telephone calls and conversations at the industry trade conferences – has been extraordinary, and mere words cannot possibly define my gratitude. Here's wishing you the very best for the holiday season and for the coming year!
– Phil Hall, editor, MortgageOrb
(Please address all comments regarding this opinion column to email@example.com.)
Photo: Ramon F. Velasquez