Holiday Gifts For The Mortgage Banking Industry

Written by Phil Hall
on December 10, 2012 No Comments
Categories : Blog View

12875_xmas Holiday Gifts For The Mortgage Banking Industry 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 hallp@mortgageorb.com.)

Photo: Ramon F. Velasquez

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Holiday Gifts For The Mortgage Banking Industry

Written by Phil Hall
on December 12, 2011 No Comments
Categories : Blog View

10465_santa2 Holiday Gifts For The Mortgage Banking Industry BLOG VIEW: Are you still doing your holiday shopping? If you are, there's a good chance we'll bump into each other at the mall. I'm currently scrambling to fill my annual gift list to the mortgage banking industry. So we don't give the same gifts to certain people, let me give you a preview of what I am considering as holiday presents:

For Rep. Barney Frank: A pair of ruby slippers. After the obstreperous ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee announced his retirement, he took potshots at the GOP presidential candidates by comparing them to characters in ‘The Wizard of Oz’: Frank cast Rick Perry as the brainless Scarecrow, Mitt Romney as the heart-free Tin Man and Newt Gingrich as the charlatan Wizard.

However, Frank should be wary that some force from beyond the rainbow doesn't drop a house on him – which would certainly be karmic retribution, considering his leadership role in dropping the housing market crisis on the American public! Let's hope that the post-retirement Frank will put on his new footwear and dance as far away from the political epicenter as the Yellow Brick Road can take him.

For Sheila Bair: The concept of humility. Under Bair's watch as chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the nation experienced the highest level of bank failures since the Great Depression. Not only did Bair refuse to accept any responsibility, but she also insisted that she went above and beyond the call of duty to try and stop the maelstrom from forming. I don't know which is worse: Bair's ineptitude as a financial regulatory prophet of doom or her chronic inability to acknowledge her dismal record.

For Michael J. Williams and Brian E. Haldeman: Invoices for the return of their respective take-home pay. In an appearance last month before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Fannie Mae CEO Williams and Freddie Mac CEO Haldeman defended the seven-digit compensation levels enjoyed by the government-sponsored enterprises' (GSEs) executives by insisting the demands of their work required ultra-high paychecks. Haldeman also blandly insisted that revoking their compensation programs ‘would greatly reduce the value of taxpayer investment in our company.’

Strangely, Williams and Haldeman forgot to mention that they and their C-suite cronies have yet to produce a penny of profit while the U.S. taxpayer has propped up the GSEs with billions of dollars. Really, where can the public go to demand its money back for the lack of results by incompetent GSE management?

For Elizabeth Warren: Nothing. If Santa Claus can withhold presents from naughty children, then I should have the right to withhold presents from naughty grown-ups. And Warren brought naughtiness to new depths by spending the first half of the year with her incessant demonizing of the entire financial services industry, followed by her U.S. Senate campaign which she's launched with an inane rant that insisted business owners are somehow not paying their fair share in taxes. I shudder to think what she'll come up with in 2012.

For Shaun Donovan: A pair of sturdy shoes for traveling the extra mile. Last month, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development bragged in a blog about his department's efforts to ensure that members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community would not be the victims of housing discrimination. However, Donovan has yet to openly advocate for an expansion of the Fair Housing Act to ensure that LGBT Americans receive the same level of federal protection that has been accorded to others on the basis of race, religion, national origin, gender, disability and family status.

Discrimination against any community is abhorrent, yet federal policy and the laws in more than half of the states do not prevent housing discrimination based on sexual orientation. Donovan has failed to go that proverbial extra mile to guarantee to protect the LGBT community – it is time for him to lace up his new shoes and go that proverbial extra mile to guarantee no one can be denied access to housing because of who they are.

For Howard I. Atkins: An XL-sized ‘Greed is Good’ t-shirt. Atkins was the chief financial officer at Wells Fargo who submitted his resignation on Feb. 8, but stayed on the Wells Fargo personnel roll for an additional six months of unpaid leave without a formal title. This unusual setup was because Atkins was in line for $27 million in deferred compensation, pension benefits and stock grants, but only if he put in a full 10 years at Wells Fargo – and his 10th year anniversary was in August, not February, hence his too-sweet C-suite retirement deal.

Sadly, the news of Atkins' lucrative jackpot coincided with reports that Wells Fargo was in the process of laying off nearly 350 people. To date, Atkins has offered no public comment on his incredible good fortune, nor has he expressed remorse that he is handsomely profiting while hundreds of former Wells Fargo's employees are out of work.

For David H. Stevens: A bottle of gingko biloba. Alternative medicine aficionados have long insisted that gingko biloba supplements can help to improve memory functions, and that's something that the president and CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) can certainly use.

In April, Stevens used his first public appearance as the MBA's chief executive to make this statement: ‘It is my goal to launch an extensive grassroots awareness campaign to highlight how we support homeownership and lower costs for home buyers, through direct financing and through the secondary market.’ Well, here we are in December, and Stevens appears to have completely forgotten his lofty goal. Perhaps if he remembered his proposal, then the Occupy Chicago merrymakers would not have invaded the MBA's Annual Convention in October.

For Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller: 50 Kittens and a Shepherd's Staff. After trying and failing to coordinate the 50 state attorneys general into a cohesive unit that would effectively negotiate the settlement involving the nation's major servicers, it only seems fitting that Miller should need to get his game up. And I think that herding kittens will give him more than enough practice to get those finicky attorneys general in place and get the settlement talks concluded once and for all.

For MortgageOrb's readers: My deepest thanks!
Once again, I am extremely gratified for the depth and scope of feedback and support that our readers have provided during the year. Here's wishing you the best of the holiday season!

– Phil Hall, editor, Secondary Marketing Executive

(Please address all comments regarding this opinion column to hallp@sme-online.com.)

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Holiday Gifts For The Mortgage Banking Industry

Written by Phil Hall
on December 13, 2010 No Comments
Categories : Blog View

BLOG VIEW: Yes, it is that time of the year – everyone is running around with gift shopping lists in an advanced state of anxiety. Buying holiday presents for family and friends is challenging, but spreading the seasonal spirit to the mortgage banking industry is a truly Sisyphean task. Nonetheless, I think I have the perfect gifts for the various individuals and entities that make mortgage banking such a fun industry.

For Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.:
A pair of monkey wrenches to be used as flyswatters. Their 2,300-page Dodd-Frank Act saddled the financial services industry with a host of new bureaucracies, regulations and mandates that completely fail to address any of the core problems that created the collapse of economy. As the lords of overkill, Dodd and Frank achieved the impossible: They took a bad situation and made it even worse. (I suspect that Dodd-Frank dartboards will be very popular holiday gift items throughout the industry.)

For Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas: A reality check. When the Republicans gain control of the House of Representatives next month, Paul will be the new chairman of the House Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy. This will give him ample opportunity to create amusing but distracting mischief. Paul, of course, is the man who advocated eliminating the Federal Reserve and putting the U.S. back on the gold standard – wacky causes that aren't even embraced by the extremists in the Tea Party movement, let alone the Republican stalwarts. There are serious issues that will demand the subcommittee's attention, and let's hope that Paul's offbeat politics won't derail the important work that lies ahead.

For Elizabeth Warren: Lemonade glasses. After her long and intelligent advocacy for the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Warren was embarrassed by the Obama administration's refusal to put her forward for Senate confirmation as the bureau's first director. However, she is trying to make the most of her consolidation prize as presidential adviser in shaping the bureau's agenda. Clearly, Warren knows how to act when handed lemons!

For Edward J. DeMarco: A new bench to warm. Following the August 2009 resignation of James Lockhart as director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), DeMarco stepped forward as the caretaker with the title ‘acting director.’ But who's kidding whom? DeMarco ran the FHFA with far more skill and focus than Lockhart, who bore more than a little responsibility for allowing the government-sponsored enterprises to become wards of the state. But rather than put DeMarco forward as the next FHFA director, the White House ignored his good work in favor of North Carolina Commissioner of the Banks Joseph A. Smith Jr.

For John Courson: A laminated ‘Silence is Golden’ plaque. The president and CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) used the media to actively insist that homeowners with underwater mortgages stay in their residences – while his trade group scrambled to sell its ritzy Washington, D.C., headquarters because it could not keep up with mortgage payments. Courson had a bizarre encore at the MBA Annual Convention in October, when he blamed the robo-signing debacle squarely on a media-induced ‘feeding frenzy.’ I guess Courson never heard of Jeffrey Stephan, which leads us toâ�¦

For Jeffrey Stephan: A king-sized mop and an industrial-sized canister of disinfectant. In case you forgot, Stephan was the document processor with the GMAC Mortgage unit of Ally Financial that introduced the U.S. to the concept of robo-signing. In a sworn deposition, Stephan admitted that he robo-signed up to 10,000 foreclosure documents a month for five years – and this statement gave the industry yet another self-induced fiasco.

For Redwood Trust Inc.: A king-sized ice pick. When the Mill Valley, Calif.-based company launched its much-ballyhooed securitization in April, many people believed this would be the initial defrosting of the private-label market. Eight months later, the scene is still pretty frozen, and the Redwood Trust endeavor looks like an aberration rather than a harbinger of things to come. A second Redwood Trust private-label securitization is being planned for early 2011, so let's keep our fingers crossed that second time is the charm.

For the manufactured housing sector: Champagne and caviar. Last week's news from Fitch Ratings that the long-beleaguered sector has emerged as one of the mortgage industry's more stable performers is a great reason for celebration. After years of unique problems that were made worse during the economic crisis, it appears that the sector may finally be able to get its groove back.

For the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN): A rose for its tomb. Earlier this year, the controversial ACORN was formally shut down after three decades of aggravating lenders and elected officials with its aggressive lobbying and street-theater tactics. While ACORN's initial goals of advocating affordable housing were laudable, its obnoxious tactics and inept management gave the impression that it preferred using the stick instead of the carrot.

For MortgageOrb readers: A big virtual hug for taking the time to visit our site and to offer cogent comments on our coverage of mortgage banking. Thank you very much and Happy Holidays!

– Phil Hall, editor, Secondary Marketing Executive

(Please address all comments regarding this opinion column to hallp@sme-online.com.)

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