If you are like me, you consider the year-end holiday season to be fairly stressful when it comes to buying gifts. In my case, the stress level is doubled, because I have a lot of gifts to distribute to many people across our industry.
Just in case we may be sharing the same gift list, let me give you a peek at what I am planning to give this year to the various individuals who shape the mortgage banking industry.
To the mortgage servicers: A year's vacation. These folks are probably the most overworked people in the industry, and they certainly need more than their fair share of rest and relaxation after what they were doing this year. The one downside of this gift is that they're probably going to be working twice as hard in 2010, so maybe a year away from their desks won't be that practical.
To the commercial real estate industry: A year's supply of aspirin. There will be many headaches awaiting this sector in 2010, so this gift will probably come in handy.
To the warehouse lenders: A big bag of Hershey's Kisses. After all, some sort of affectionate thanks is required for those entities that are still keeping this part of the industry afloat.
To those awaiting the return of the private-label secondary market: Pandora's slightly used box. Don't worry, its one remaining content is still in place.
To the reverse mortgage sector: A ‘proceed with caution’ sign. Comptroller of the Currency John C. Dugan set off a mini-earthquake earlier this year by bandying about comparisons between reverse mortgages and subprime mortgages. It ultimately didn't create damage, but the sector needs to expect some more criticism in 2010 and to be extra vigilant in regard to due diligence and risk management. I suspect that Dugan's careless comment was not an aberration, but the beginning of a new scrutiny for the sector.
To the leadership of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: Microphones. These will be useful when the government-sponsored enterprises are ready to announce when and how they plan to cease being wards of the state. Hopefully, we won't have to wait another year to learn the details of their post-conservator status.
To Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn.: A moving van. Despite his elaborate but belated attempts to show that he is a friend of the average homeowner via his over-the-top 1,100-page regulatory reform proposal, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee is easily the most vulnerable incumbent facing re-election in 2010. If Dodd's poll numbers are any indication, I suspect his holiday gift will come in handy towards shortly after Election Day.
To Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner: A set of earplugs. I am appalled at the recent vain attempts by several Congressmen (from both parties) to scapegoat Geithner as the sole cause for the current economic situation. Geithner, who has not always been very comfortable with public speaking, found his voice during a Capitol Hill appearance last month. ‘What I can't take responsibility is for the legacy of crises you've bequeathed this country,’ he said to his foes.
To Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke: Nothing. Getting a second term as the Fed leader and the designation of being Time Magazine's Person of the Year, despite a job performance that could charitably be called erratic, is enough for him.
To Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) Chairwoman Sheila Bair: A bushel of four-leaf clovers. It cannot hurt to have extra talisman-inspired help when the time comes for her job to be renewed. Considering that Bair was at the helm when the FDIC insurance fund fell into the red for the first time since the savings-and-loan crisis of the early 1990s, one would think that it is time for better leadership at that troubled agency. Bair has been fighting to stay relevant through a high-profile media campaign, but even the best spin doctors cannot hide her obvious lackluster job performance.
To Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas: A magnum of champagne. Paul, whose Washington influence has never been particularly vibrant (even when his party was running Capitol Hill for most of this decade), scored a significant victory last month when the House Financial Services Committee voted 43-26 to approve his measure that would direct the congressional Government Accountability Office to expand its auditing to include the Federal Reserve System, with a particular focus on decisions about interest rates and lending to individual banks. Well done, sir!
To the MortgageOrb readers: My deepest thanks for dropping by every day to keep track of the industry and to comment on our coverage. Thank you, one and all, and Happy Holidays!
– Phil Hall, editor, [b][i]Secondary Marketing Executive[/i][/b]
[i] (Please address all comments regarding this opinion column to firstname.lastname@example.org.)[/i]