On July 24, 2019 “The FTC’s $5 billion civil penalty against Facebook for violations of an earlier FTC order is record-breaking and history-making. In addition, the settlement requires Facebook to implement changes…” said a news release by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to MHProNews and others in media.
In that same timeframe, on July 22, 2019 “Equifax Inc. has agreed to pay at least $575 million, and potentially up to $700 million, as part of a global settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau…” – once more according to a media release by the FTC.
These are on one level ‘record’ or ‘historic’ settlements. On the other hand, they also allowed Equifax and Facebook to continue in business.
Certainly, a larger fine could have forced Equifax into bankruptcy. To Facebook, it was chump change for them, a slap on the wrist.
Nevertheless, these events are significant event in many respects, as some added hue reflects.
Newsweek was among the mainstream media that reported that those 147 million who were impacted by the Equifax case could easily file a claim. “Those whose information was released will be able to file a simple form managed by settlement administrator JND, a company known for handling class-action and corporate bankruptcy settlements in which millions of people may be eligible for compensation.”
It is MHProNews among the industry’s trade media that uniquely looks at and tracks how such cases outside of manufactured housing as those above may shed light on what could occur if the giant Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate was hauled into court by plaintiffs’ attorneys and/or by federal or state regulators.
Let’s not forget that during this week’s Democratic Presidential Debates, several 2020 hopefuls spoke about rigorous antitrust action.
Despite his heart attack, don’t count Senator Bernie Sanders influence out. Sanders after the debate has been endorsed by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (NY-D) (AOC) and other members of the House of Representatives freshmen class progressive “squad,” has announced their endorsement of Sanders. Sanders pointed on Tuesday night to the 3 richest men in America as a whipping boy of crony capitalism. Those three richest include Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and one Warren Buffett. All three have direct and/or indirect ties to factory-built housing, including Buffett led-Berkshire’s. Buffett and Berkshire has direct ties and indirect connections with each of those other two richest men in America, and the world.
Legal Actions by States, Feds, and Plaintiffs’ Attorneys
Plaintiffs’ attorneys in such matters often work on a contingency fee basis and numbers of firms will often carry the costs of litigation.
If it is state Attorneys General or federal government officials that are the ones involved in a legal matter, then essentially taxpayers foot the bill for prosecution of the investigations and the resultant litigation and/or settlement.
The Berkshire Connection…
An informed and normally reliable source has told MHProNews that Berkshire hired not long ago a new attorney who specializes in defending against such major cases. Sources with brands associated with Clayton Homes, 21st Mortgage Corp, or Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance (VMF) have not yet confirmed or denied that claim.
Industry professionals, investors, and residents in manufactured homes, especially those in land lease communities, should take careful note. So too should new, past, or potentially incoming staff at the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI). If litigation occurs, will MHI pick up the costs for a defense attorney for those on staff who may be hauled into an investigation under a federal or state subpoena?
There is a growing body of evidence on MHLivingNews and MHProNews that is carefully cross linked to other information. The rationale for cases are laid out in a systematic way. That is the opposite of “gaslighting.”
While they are still a tiny minority of our total website traffic, third-party Webalizer reports that federal and state officials account for thousands of hits on our trade media sites monthly. The page views generated by government officials ironically appears to dwarf what pro-MHI publisher MHInsider generates total monthly, per their own media kit. That could mean that more feds are on our site every month than MHInsider, Allen’s blog, or MHR get monthly. That speaks volumes to thinking industry professionals and investors. Contacts with federal and other public officials makes it clear that they take what they read on MHLivingNews and MHProNews seriously.
Fear Keeps State Associations, Independents in Line?
It is well known that some, perhaps many in MHVille, fear to stand up and speak out openly about the evidence of apparent manipulation of the manufactured housing market that arguably harms independents, consumers, taxpayers, investors, and others.
But we know from reports like that about the so-called Mobile Home Militia (MHM) that there are those willing to pushback publicly too.
Ducking Direct Dialogue?
2017 was the last year that the powers that be behind the Tunica Show allowed MHProNews to promote that event as well as do the educational seminars. There were invitations made by MHProNews to Patti Boerger, then MHI’s media relations person, to be part of a panel discussion planned for Tunica. The invitation was first made face-to-face at an MHI meeting. But it was also followed up by email, as the screenshot below reflects.
That occurred while this firm and our publisher was still an MHI member.
For some years, MHProNews’ publisher strived from inside MHI to address issues that MHI and the “big boys” arguably ducked, dodged, or distracted others on for some years. Finally, MHI ejected MHProNews from membership in 2017 on an arguably spurious rationale that they had ‘discovered’ – after some 7 years as a member?!? – that we are news, saying in an unsigned letter that they had no such category for membership. So much for their claim of representing all segments of manufactured housing.
So, as a growing body of evidence reflects that key and other MHI members and connections often engage in behavior that is so outrageous that it is causing states and the federal government to take action against the entire industry.
What was MHI’s response? A letter is sent to their members and readers announcing a code of ethical conduct. Uh-huh.
Investors, professionals, and public officials, take note. It was weeks earlier that this platform publicly pressed the issue of the code of ethical conduct.
One might wonder how much of the pressure within MHI to finally do or say something was sparked by a steady stream of articles that call for accountability via fact checks and analysis of news, often taking large portions of MHI’s and their ‘big boy’ members own words, and checking them against various realities and known facts.
Recent examples of that are above and below.
Gaslighting – Attempts to Shape a Counter Narrative to Reality
MHProNews’ readers tell us, as do our site statistics, that professionals respond to a steady diet of evidence-based facts combined with analysis. Only MHProNews has carefully followed the shipment data, and monthly does several reports that break down the data in a variety of ways. One example of that is below.
Gaslighting by definition are ruses designed to get people to deny reality. As a special report earlier and later will document and cross link, it is MHI and their surrogates who are arguably engaged in that, or what the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) called the “Illusion of Motion.”
It isn’t gaslighting by MHProNews to cite numerous sources that have recently or in the past few years publicly either ripped or politely questioned the leadership and effectiveness of MHI.
That begs the question that MHProNews and our sister site alone has repeatedly and consistently asked in the industry trade media. Why does MHI, which is clearly dominated by Berkshire Hathaway in terms of funding and their executive committee, fail to address core issues effectively? Why do they only respond after months or years of pressure to put up a fig leaf to do what they claim to do?
Failure by the Omaha-Knoxville-Arlington axis to be consistent in living up to their own published claims begs the question, why? What is their agenda?
A reasonable hypothesis is that the axis and their trade surrogates are attempting to gaslight public officials, investors, and independents. The reason for that? To allow Buffett and their ‘Moat’ to grow.
Gifts to Manufactured Housing, Squandered
The industry has been given what amounts to gifts from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the Trump Administration through HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s efforts at the Innovative Housing Showcase (IHS) last June, or in speeches to MHI. Only after months of embarrassing pressure caused by MHARR’s reports and our own more frequent ones, has MHI relented to the point that they have posted a video that can be found from their homepage. But that video also fails to mention the nearly magical words, “enhanced preemption.”
The point is simple. Whatever you call the axis’ attempts to create a counter-message to documented reality, the industry is shrinking during an affordable housing crisis. That fact harms consumers, independents, and the public interest. The leaders of the axis are either world class incompetents, or a relatively small group are stage managing MHI and others in a fashion that allows for consolidation that arguably is accomplished by trying to skirt federal antitrust and other laws.
Yes, there is a case to be made that a kind of gaslighting is occurring in manufactured housing. The case can be made that gaslighting – posturing efforts while routinely failing to do what is obviously necessary – is harming millions of Americans, and thousands of professionals, as well as taxpayers. But that arguable gaslighting is coming from the Omaha-Knoxville-Arlington axis, their trade surrogates, and allies.
It is past or present MHI members who have at times called out that Illusion of Motion, that saying one thing but doing another. MHProNews has steadfastly reported that type of behavior for years. It is also evident that what occurred at MHI is to various degrees being mirrored at the state association level too.
There is a body of evidence is being gathered in plain sight for a case that could make Equifax and Facebook seem modest by comparison. That body of evidence is linked and referenced. Our apologies to Madonna for in any fashion equating her with the axis, even as a bit of satire.
Stay tuned, because public officials – who do not always show their hand openly or rapidly – are at work. How many plaintiffs’ attorneys may be pursuing these pages and MHLivingNews is another and related matter.
That said, is it any wonder that MHI or the big boys have consistently declined comments directly since roughly the spring of 2017? For years, those same players praised and responded to MHProNews rapidly. Let the reader discern why they have failed to continue to support trade media that has as a stated goal the ethical and sustainable growth of manufactured housing, which in turn clearly means treating residents and homeowners well.
Gaslighting? Someone in Wisconsin might say, ‘youbetcha.’ But if so, that gaslight is coming from the axis and their media surrogates. MHI’s own former president delivered a parting slap in the face to MHI in that article linked above. See for yourself by clicking the linked image or text-link. Why would he do so? Unless he was attempting to warn the industry as to what was occurring and coming? Keep in mind, that MHI for years has had non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), per MHI sources, that keeps even former staff for a time to say certain things.
Is there any wonder why, in the light of the body of evidence that MHLivingNews and MHProNews has amassed, that the Omaha-Knoxville-Arlington axis and their allies won’t stand up publicly and discuss or debate their performance in a moderated, video recorded format?
That is your third chapter today at the industry’s absolute top, most-read source of “News through the lens of manufactured homes and factory-built housing” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (News, analysis, periodic entertainment, inspiration, and commentary.)
Submitted by Soheyla Kovach for MHProNews.com.
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