What follows below is a reply by publisher L. A. ‘Tony’ Kovach to an attorney for a federal agency based in Washington, D.C.
To set the stage for this report, Tony Kovach filed a formal complaint which that agency’s system indicates occurred at:
Create Date: 2020-01-03 19:37:20.
In under 2 weeks, the federal attorney sent a substantive reply that indicates follow ups and made suggestions too.
One sentence from that attorney’s reply said: “…appreciate your informing us of your concerns regarding Berkshire Hathaway, Inc….”
As regular readers know, MHProNews takes some quotes and turns them brown and bold to make them pop. But in what follows is the substance of Tony Kovach’s follow up following the first few paragraphs and bullets. He told them that industry readers would be advised, but that the specific agency and public official’s name would be kept confidential at this time.
With that backdrop, here is his follow up to that federal agency. Following this formal reply, some MHProNews analysis will follow.
…Beyond my thanks for your confirmation and that reference above from your email, insights and message details, let me say that the absolute number 1 issue here to me is the swiftest possible response by our office to my previously stated concerns.
You are an attorney, so you may be familiar with the phrase, “justice delayed is justice denied.”
While we as trade media completely grasp and support the rights of all, including the accused, this purported scheme has impacted literally thousands of professionals, investors and millions of consumers. It has gone on for no less than a decade. Many still don’t fully grasp what has hit and hurt them. Others know very well what struck them but may not have realized that there were regulatory and law enforcement agencies that they could have turned to for assistance.
When I was younger, there was a motto emblazoned on the sides of certain police patrol cars. “To Protect and the Serve.” Isn’t that the essence of the role of federal agencies like yours too? That and what follows is not meant as an accusation nor to be preachy, but rather as motivation to encourage maximum and more rapid vs minimalist or status quo efforts. A grade-school teacher gave me a book that challenged and ‘dared’ me to do my best. Kindly take some of this message in that sense, an encouragement that includes as motivation some images of those who have been harmed.
Because you and your colleagues can make a difference.
As our now diminutive industry’s largest and most-read trade media, I can tell you we hear and read from a range of professionals, consumers and others. Online site data tells us much too.
During an affordable housing crisis, our industry is about 1/4th the size it was in 1998 in terms of the production and shipment of new HUD Code manufactured homes. That’s either incompetence at a phenomenal level on the part of untold numbers who previously were successful for years, or it is indicative of something else.
Having studied this for years, having worked in the industry beyond but including publishing for decades and knowing what those professionals faced, we see clear evidence that this is not just a bunch of bad luck on the part of thousands of professionals and investors. Previously successful people didn’t simply wake up one day en masse and forget how to do what they’d done routinely quite well for years. Does that make sense?
Even that brief statement and query should indicate that market manipulation that violates several laws, some of which arguably involves your agency, make for clear signs of illicit activities, deceptive trade practices, including some prima facie violations of the law and/or regulations.
The two statements below were made previously for publication, but as a disclosure were not specifically intended for this message. That said, in my view they apply to this circumstance.
When they made those statements, they were wholesale customers of Clayton Homes and 21st Mortgage. I’m not speaking for them, but you could ask them:
- do they think they are among those that believe they are in slowly squeezing vise that has been artificially created? Ask them why they said what they said.
- Then ask them if they feel the same now and do they know others in our industry who do too?
I know others, beyond those examples.
If someone rigs financing in the manufactured housing market, much else flows from it. Ditto on other regulatory issues. Hobble placement, perception and financing and you’ve knee capped much of the industry’s independents and their backers too.
- There are state association executives in manufactured housing that once spoke up, but now are silent. You’ll see an example of that in a linked report below.
- I’ve had messages and communications from those who have work in those named Berkshire owned firms – Clayton Homes and 21stMortgage Corp – for years in a variety of roles. They want to help, because they grasp that something is seriously awry.
- Those inside purported black hat operations as well as white hat independents often fear reprisals. Again, you are the attorney, not I. But isn’t fear of reprisals for simply voicing concerns potentially an element in RICO? Isn’t that potentially ‘extortion through fear?’
Our publications hear from consumers who may or may not fully comprehend all that is wrong, but they completely understand that they have been wronged. They read articles on MHLivingNews and some turn to us for help. We do what we can, but we’re not public officials, paid lobbyists or an association that’s supported by members and dues. Often those consumers’ stories are heartbreaking. Some send photos and videos.
Their dreams are being undermined. Often the value of their homes or the peaceful enjoyment of their residence is imperiled. Numbers are seniors or veterans.
Likewise, the dreams and aspirations of thousands – literally thousands – of smaller businesses and/or investors are and have been too.
Last night, my wife and I watched President Trump’s Rally in Wisconsin and the Democratic debates. What’s fascinating is that higher profile members of each major party are often saying something similar, even if their solutions are often quite different. The root issue is boiled down to these succinct words. “The system is rigged.”
We believe in free enterprise, but we reject deceptive trade practices, arguably illegal and illicit manipulation of the system. I don’t think that your federal department permits a rigged system, does it?
But as this message, illustrations, quotes and related research reflects, the evidence of a rigged system in manufactured housing is arguably strong. That merits a strong follow up, don’t you agree?
In my reading of the law and commentary on it by attorneys or experts, elements of what we have uncovered in our reporting and research fall squarely in your agency’s aegis.
- What may overlap between your office with other in federal and/or state government, please feel free to refer this message and what was previously provided in my complaint to others too.
We do not yet know each other. But odds are that you and I both know the solution to such vexing issues, don’t we? It’s simple. Enforce the law. President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have often said that they are in the law enforcement business. Some of those 2020 Democratic hopefuls have said in writing that specific laws aren’t being properly enforced, and we name those in our reports and link their letters. What they may or may not fully see is how their concerns go beyond just one agency.
Respectfully, you and your organization are in the law enforcement business. Part of deterrence is to make it plain that illicit behavior is not tolerated, right?
Paraphrasing what several 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls have said, big corporations have corrupted the system. A speech by then-candidate Trump just days before the 2016 election made a starkly similar point.
We hammer home with public officials across the political divides specific examples of how that system is rigged, not just a generic concern. We do so with our professional and public readers too. Those readers must think we are onto something, because based upon our audience response and third-party metrics, they follow the reports linked herein closely.
Perhaps as or more relevant to you as an attorney is that other attorneys we’ve addressed this to see merit in the complaints. I’m happy to explain that in more detail.
Since I’ve made that initial complaint to your office, we have published additional reports and research. Some are linked below. But all of our research and reports are public, these links that follow are given to get someone started with specific issues that merit action. Please digest those reports and forward these to the relevant persons in your offices, as well as to all public authorities in others at the state and federal levels that ought to be involved in this.
This report linked below makes, as the title states, what is arguably a prima facie case. Within 24 hours of it being published, it was the runaway most read on our site. I’ve contacted those accused in that report for reaction and they declined comment. As the article indicates, some of those same individuals previously would have replied promptly on other issues. They previously praised us for our reports and efforts, which perhaps makes it more difficult for them now to try to dismiss us.
Indeed, one of the bigger ploys that they utilize is posturing efforts while doing nothing, what NCIS calls Razzle Dazzle.
This next link is granular in the sense that it shows specific legislators and public officials raising concerns about the failure to implement laws that are manufactured housing specific. Once the report linked above (and here again, for clarity) is understood, the following will be more evident.
This next link includes as a download my 5-page PowerPoint that I presented during the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) “Listening Session,” on 12.11.2019 and a previous version that I did live in Washington, D.C. on 12.2.2019. This includes several items that in my mind obviously impact issues with respect to your agency.
Homelessness is on the rise. Affordable housing, as some candidates and the White House Council on Affordable Housing have made clear, are growing issues that harm millions.
Those facts logically mean that there are negative impacts from these issues I’m raising to the budgets of local, state and federal agencies. While obviously not everything is caused by this purported scheme, several aspects absolutely connect, as various lawmakers and others have stated themselves.
Deductively that means that the harm done to citizens, professionals, investors and others can’t be understated.
While we don’t speak for any organization but our own, it doesn’t take a genius to see how the just completed interview with the President and CEO of the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR), Mark Weiss, J.D., relates to these issues and concerns. An attorney like yourself, Mr. Weiss couches things in the carefully phrased language suggested by the law. That said, this speaks for itself.
Once you digest that, you’ll see how much of what Mr. Weiss and MHARR have said and done dovetails with concerns I’ve made in my allegations and/or that we’ve covered in linked and published reports. In several ways, MHARR proceed us in this struggle to expose this illicit scheme. We just happen to have a bigger audience because they are a trade association, not a publisher. I can’t say if they’ve thought to formally make a complaint like this or not to your agency, but that’s a separate matter.
Your message said Berkshire Hathaway (BRK), which I am indeed calling to be formally investigated. But what would be a mistake, perhaps a failure on my part, if I’ve not made this clear is that this issue is far from limited to BRK or brands like Clayton Homes, 21st Mortgage or Vanderbilt (VMF).
There are several firms, some of which are publicly traded, that all happen to be members of the Arlington, VA based Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI). In our reading of the evidence, some arguably may have been a part of this allegedly illegal scheme from early on, while others later became de facto accomplices in it. Cavco Industries (CVCO) comes to mind for reasons stated in our linked reporting, as possibly involved from early on or concurrently to those related allegations of the Berkshire brands.
You may be aware of the SEC allegations announced in late 2018 about Cavco Industries (CVCO)? Or the allegations made on John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight errantly named Mobile Homes? Some of what we’ve uncovered may led to even greater interest on those issues and how that interacts with FTC, DOJ, SEC, HUD or other state and federal agencies.
Please communicate to those who will do the leg work that the downloads and cross-links from reports previously sent or reports that are found in this message are also part of my complaint. We’ve tried to structure articles so that outsiders looking in can ‘get it’ as readily as possible.
Beyond CVCO, there are also reasons to suspect Skyline-Champion (SKY) at some point became part of this purported rigging of the market in a manner that harms public, smaller businesses, investors and other public interests. Hypothetically, they or others could be accomplices after-the-fact. In my reading of the evidence, law and human nature, the longer this scheme is allowed to continue without some measure of investigative announcements by federal agencies like yours, more will likely do or join in on what the originators have done.
I have in my possession statements by industry professionals that plainly seem to violate or undermine this or that federal law. Note that this argument is being structured in a manner that should make clear that these are not mere stylistic, personality or policy differences, but rather I’m providing pointed examples of how laws are being thwarted or ignored in purportedly illegal fashion that should be of concern to your agency and others.
These are all among the reasons why I’m making this lengthy reply.
I’m encouraging you to take it up with whomever may be in charge that an investigation should be announced publicly. The law and regulations must be seen as not just some piece of paper in a dusty book or as digitally buried among billions of pages online that is being ignored. Rather, the law must be seen as something that is serious and should be enforced in a fashion that protects rights but also aims to bring those involved in illicit and illegal behaviors to justice.
Indeed, as noted, several members of the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) have arguably and apparently worked in concert in violation of several regulations and laws. But let me stress, there are sources at or with MHI that have been useful in our research and reports.
I’ve personally addressed these concerns recently to an MHI board member who is also a top official with Equity LifeStyle Properties (ELS) and their corporate general counsel. I’ve documented that outreach and that to CVCO, SKY, Berkshire brands and others. I’ve addressed ELS’ in-house and several outside counsels to MHI.
That’s all stated to also make clear that your telling me in your email that your agency will make this information part of a searchable database is fine. I think sunlight could be part of the disinfectant.
Please take any and all steps as promptly as possible. I’m willing to do whatever is possible. Some of this is manufactured home industry specific and may require some level of expertise to understand. I’m willing to help make whatever is murky with respect to granular manufactured housing industry issues clear.
If your department made a formal announcement of an investigation into concerns about the manufactured housing industry, it wouldn’t surprise me that in time, others would gain the courage to step forward and state what they know. I know professionals who have said they would speak up if they thought their experiences and statements would be taken seriously by public officials.
It is likely that current and/or former members of Berkshire brands, Cavco, Skyline-Champion and other MHI members and staff would have additional documents that would make such a formal investigation more fruitful.
As you likely know, various state and federal agencies made public their investigations of big tech antitrust or other issues. We concur with those probes and actions too. That’s said because I’m asking you to do address those in charge at your agency to do similarly, to potentially warn those who aren’t our readers of our websites. Some public announcement, not unlike what occurred with the SEC and Cavco, could minimize the harm being done until justice is finally accomplished.
Pardon my lengthy reply, but I hope it makes sense to you and gives you additional items to reviews, research and consider. As an FYI, we will advise our readers in a generic way of this without naming you or your agency. But I do plan to make all elements of your message and my reply known to certain public officials and possibly others.
My only other request at this time is that you confirm that you have this message. Any other feedback or follow up is welcomed and encouraged.
Thank you, respectfully submitted.
MHProNews Analysis and Commentary
Much of the past few years of research, reports and related allegations have been leading up to what MHProNews’ management believes is the logical next step.
Namely, public officials must be involved.
That involvement of federal, state and in certain cases local officials who should be investigating the purported harm done to consumers and thousands of industry professionals and investors can be amplified in licit and appropriate ways. More on that in the days ahead.
There is no guarantee that the agency(ies) involved will make a public statement, as requested by Tony Kovach. That said, there are already good reasons to grasp that such federal probes are already underway, as the report above linked federal lawmakers’ requests to given federal agencies for probes, and the video below indicates a different federal agency but also a clear statement of federal investigations underway.
The battle for manufactured housing independence has been underway for some time. This is just the latest step. The Omaha-Knoxville-Arlington axis and their allies posture or claim whatever they will. But not unlike billionaire-con man and federal convict Bernie Madoff, at least some of the truth is already hiding in plain sight.
Regular readers know we strive to be fair and accurate. It may hurt the feelings of some that we question the purported ethics of MHI and some of their members.
That said, MHI is correct about this. There is large upside potential in affordable housing and manufactured homes. But the facts demonstrate time and again that they are not tapping into that potential.
See the related reports, below the byline and notices.
As usual, there is always more information and insights ahead. That’s all she wrote for this installment of manufactured housing “Industry News, Tips and Views Pros Can Use“ © – MHVille’s runaway #1 news source, where “We Provide, You Decide.” © (News, fact-checks, analysis, and commentary.) Notice: all third party images or content are provided under fair use guidelines for media.
Submitted by Soheyla Kovach for MHProNews.com.Soheyla is a co-founder and managing member of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com. Connect with us on LinkedIn here and here.
The text/image boxes below are linked to other reports, which can be accessed by clicking on them.