Congressional Representative Abby Finkenauer (IA1-D) has filed a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) naming specific Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) member firms for “troubling” “predatory” and other unjust business practices.
Finkenauer is the Assistant Democratic Whip, a position of some influence in her party’s majority caucus in the House of Representatives. She addressed FTC Chairman Joseph J. Simons on January 7, 2020. Her letter named specific individuals and their firms. They included Frank Rolfe, Dave Reynolds, Impact Communities and others. Her letter mentions the fact that Havenpark Capital’s J. Anthony Antoneli had previously come under FTC scrutiny for “deceptive trade practices” when he was a top executive of Nu Skin Enterprises.
Finkenauer’s letter is linked here as a download. The screen capture of her letter is as shown below. It will he followed by an MHProNews analysis, fact check and commentary.
MHProNews Fact Check, Analysis and Commentary
Finkenauer referred to this as a “national” issue. She cited complaints in Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan beyond her own state as examples. MHProNews and our MHLivingNews sister-site have previously noted complaints from Delaware, Oregon and California among other states. That said, there is a minor error in the letter to the FTC which meant to reference “Frank and Dave” led Mobile Home University, but mistakenly called it Manufactured Home University. Otherwise, the totality of the letter is grounded in well-documented claims that are supported by reports from the mainstream news, as well as our own industry-focused trade media.
The above raises several vexatious issues for ethical manufactured housing industry members and investors, not to mention hundreds of thousands of mobile and manufactured home owners who are land-lease community residents that have experienced or fear something similar happening to them.
It begs questions like: what happened to the Manufactured Housing Institute’s National Communities Council (NCC) enforcement of their so-called code of ethical conduct? How many legislators, public officials and troubling mainstream media reports are necessary before MHI actually invokes the provisions of their own code’s statements?
As noted, this issue is a hot topic in Iowa, but also in other states – it is “national” as Congresswoman Finkenauer’s letter aptly stated.
At the same timeframe as MHI was touting their launch of MHI 2.0, higher profile MHI members are fueling bad news that harms the industry’s image. That stream of bad news in turn hurts white hat independents, while ironically acting as advertising for “Frank and Dave” Mobile Home University, Impact Communities, and Havenpark Capital and other purportedly predatory operations.
While MHI CEO Lesli Gooch was being publicly elevated to her new role with the Arlington, VA based trade group, documents have been delivered to MHProNews by an anonymous source that could be from another MHI staffer, because the sender clearly has knowledge of activities concerning Gooch who is repeatedly identified by name in those documents.
MHProNews is preparing those documents and evidence sent by an unnamed source that clearly aimed to spotlight specific concerns at MHI. While they may at first blush appear to stand apart from the controversies raised by Rep. Finkenauer’s letter to the FTC, they do find an echo and nexus in some respects.
MHI and their big boy members stand credibly accused of numerous unethical and potentially illegal actions. See the related reports linked herein and below the byline and notices for more. It is precisely those ethical and legal concerns is the logical intersection between the Iowa congresswoman’s letter, the behavior of several key MHI members, and the need for federal investigations and action.
In drawing the analysis of this report towards a close, one must note anew that MHI has white hats and purported black hats associated with it. One must take care to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Nevertheless, aren’t the black hats in MHI the ones that are drawing much of the attention? Isn’t the thrust of each of these bad news items – which so often seem to feature prominent MHI member companies – creating an atmosphere where the value of manufactured housing or MH Community living are questioned by the general public?
- Isn’t that troubling image of predatory behavior the not so subtle subtext for what PBS’ Bad Bargain or Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’s errantly named viral video named “Mobile Homes” spotlighting?
- Is it thus any surprise that interest by consumers in selecting the manufactured housing lifestyle declining, per third-party Zillow research over a recent two year period? (See the report linked here or below.)
- Note that Zillow’s study – research that unlike MHI’s doesn’t hide its compete findings or methodology – calls into question MHI’s so-called ‘promotion’ of manufactured homes and manufactured home community living. When manufactured home production and shipments in 2019 vs. 2018 declined, whose research makes more sense? Zillow’s or MHI’s?
- When other forms of mainstream housing are growing, how is it that manufactured housing shipments have retreated during an affordable housing crisis?
And in a truly cunningly duplicitous manner, isn’t it Warren Buffett’s “donations” and support for causes that have often drawn attention to these kinds of troubling issues? Is it any wonder that paltering in MHVille by the big boy backers of MHI a serious issue?
MHI’s purported Code of Ethical Conduct says in part that “Members agree to promote positive customer and resident relations as an essential responsibility.
Members agree to engage in conduct that respects the interests of customers, residents, vendors, and the general public regarding the manufactured housing industry and manufactured housing community lifestyle…
… “If it is determined that a Member is not acting in accordance to this NCC Code of Ethics, a Member may be expelled from NCC and MHI membership pursuant to NCC Operating Procedures Section 5 and Article II, Section 5 of the MHI Bylaws.”
At what point in time will MHI invoke that code with respect to Havenpark Capital, Frank Rolfe, Dave Reynolds and their varied business interests?
MHProNews and our sister site have repeatedly published stories that have called for federal investigations by Congress and agencies of competent federal or state jurisdictions. That should include other issues, not just communities, as important as they are. Financing is clearly harming residents and white hat independents. Zoning and placement concerns are too. Our LLC’s management have editorially called for state attorneys general to investigate and prosecute these behaviors which seem to violate an array of state and federal laws.
These are not partisan issues, but span the left-right divide, as the North Dakota lawmaker and others cited in the linked report below reminds readers.
Mark Weiss and MHARR’s call for an ethical and effective post-production trade group is also prudent and are hereby echoed.
Weiss’ statement above was preceded by community operators who broke away from MHI for their purported failures to act in a fashion that benefited the industry.
NAMHCO might still work for some, but they arguably erred by teaming up with MHI after breaking away from them. Until NAMHCO reverses course, they are at present part of the purported problem to the very degree that they work with MHI, instead of being part of the solution.
These kinds of allegedly predatory, immoral and potentially illegal actions will only continue until enough of the industry’s white hat members say, ‘enough is enough.’
Sound information must proceed thoughtful action. Congresswoman Finkenauer‘s letter is just the latest reminder that positive change must come from within manufactured housing, but can be aided by investigations from public officials. There is more ahead, but that’s it for now on this Friday morning edition of manufactured housing “Industry News, Tips and Views Pros Can Use,” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © (Affordable housing, manufactured homes, reports, fact-checks, analysis, and commentary. Third-party images or content are provided under fair use guidelines for media.)
(See Related Reports, further below. Text/image boxes often are hot-linked to other reports that can be access by clicking on them.)
By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – for MHLivingNews.com.
Tony earned a journalism scholarship and earned numerous awards in history and in manufactured housing. For example, he earned the prestigious Lottinville Award in history from the University of Oklahoma, where he studied history and business management. He’s a managing member and co-founder of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com. This article reflects the LLC’s and/or the writer’s position, and may or may not reflect the views of sponsors or supporters.
Connect on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/latonykovach
The text/image boxes below are linked to other reports, which can be accessed by clicking on them.