There has been broad industry interest and concerns over the documents and video that Tim Williams at 21st Mortgage Corp, Kevin Clayton at Clayton Homes, and Warren Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway have failed to explain away — or even try.
This was initially going to be a report focused only on the 21st flooring issue. But due to circumstances that will be made clear, it has evolved into a two-part notice to HUD Code manufactured home industry operations.
That change comes as a result of a pair of formal governmental notifications.
MHLivingNews and MHProNews’ reports and analysis connected “smoking gun” style evidence of purported antitrust activity. For toadies or legitimate skeptics, note that MHProNews reached out several times for comments – or alternative explanations – for the documentary and video evidence. Those outreaches for comments included, but were not limited to: Kevin Clayton, Clayton attorney Tom Hodges, Tim Williams with 21st, and the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI).
There’s been no direct replies from those corporate and association leaders, who’ve previously praised this publication for years, and until some 24 months ago would promptly reply to our trade media questions.
Instead of giving any direct reply, which is their constitutionally protected right, there has been plenty of oblique ‘over the target’ pushback from the Omaha-Knoxville-Arlington axis. Does their silence and behavior speak loudly?
We may now begin to get in the upcoming weeks the first clues as to what their defense and/or explanation(s) may be regarding evidence-based allegations we’ve exclusively published.
Legal Update on Prior Evidence
A state attorney general’s office examined the records linked here, along with more details. That AG’s office then apparently referred the matter to the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (or CFPB).
The CFPB notified MHProNews yesterday that they are opening a case.
That case is looking back, as legal matters routinely do. That said, it is currently significant due to the consolidations and failures that it arguably sparked. Depending on what follows, it could lead to class action, and/or other legal steps.
But is another – more proximate – threat aimed at the manufactured housing industry’s remaining independents already at play? That’s part two of this alert to industry independents.
21st Wholesale Financing Alert
Are independent retailers who have a wholesale floorplan agreement with 21st Mortgage Corp at risk?
According to informed industry sources, their answer is ‘yes.’
What follows is the exclusive, initial skinny.
Per Tips from Informed Insider and MH Industry Sources
It’s a vexingly simple concept, that if true, puts unknown numbers of industry independent retailers at risk.
According to one of our sources, 21st has already put this purported plot to work multiple times.
Here are the elements of the allegations, per sources:
• When a manufactured home retailer (a.k.a. “dealer”) floorplans – does wholesale lending on inventory – they have to provide the floorplan source with periodic financial statements.
• If a given retailer’s financial resources dip low, 21st has at times “withheld” or “slow walked” payments on loan proceeds to that retailer that may be due them from sold manufactured home(s).
• That slow walking of loan proceeds could in turn could tip a company into insolvency. From a well-placed source that says they’ve reviewed such cases, documents and records, this has happened several times to manufactured home independents.
• Rephrased, 21st has purportedly weaponized floorplan lending.
• MHProNews is also told from a reliable source that some retailers in these circumstances ended up selling out to Clayton, at a discount, of course.
• These serious allegations fit a pattern of “value acquisitions” – part of the Buffett strategic economic “Moat” – that artificially creates circumstances that drives competition out of business or forces a sale for a reduce price.
That’s a heavy consideration that impacts not only retailers, but independent producers of manufactured homes. Indeed, this would arguably impact all suppliers and vendors to the manufactured housing industry.
It’s the latest reality check, thanks to news tips from readers, perhaps like you.
See the related reports, linked further below. More to follow in the days ahead.
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Submitted by Soheyla Kovach to the Daily Business News for MHProNews.com. Soheyla is a managing member of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com.
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