A longtime managerial-level member of companies engaged in the manufactured housing industry, specifically including firms that are members of the Manufactured Housing Institute, contacted MHProNews regarding a plan. That proposal was to recruit away the workers of manufactured housing producers into rival firms doing onsite work.
If a HUD Code builder lost enough or all of its workforce, that’s tantamount to closing a competitor down. That could be as much of a kill shot as cutting off financing was to independent retailers and producers in the post 2009 instance documented by another whistleblower and cross-referenced to contemporaneous Berkshire Hathaway information at this link below.
If separating workers from competing factories doesn’t sound chilling enough, does it put a new light on Kevin Clayton’s own words in a pro-Berkshire Hathaway video interview? When has MHI ever challenged this or other apparent conflicts of interest between their larger and more modest or smaller members?
While ‘snagging’ workers away from manufactured housing is nothing new, the scale that this is being discussed appears to be on an order of magnitude greater than what has been witnessed previously.
Sounding the Alarm
There is more to the insight from that longtime team member of firms that happens to be MHI member operation. For strategic reasons, some details are being withheld as this is a developing scenario. While MHI may be in the dark on this, there are also reasons to think that they are in the loop too. For instance, this person served on an MHI affiliate’s board.
Either way, manufactured housing producers ought to prepare for such efforts, and document any such attempts as they are discovered and arise.
Manufactured Housing Institute Stage-Craft? Analysis and Commentary
In the wake of reports by MHProNews, along with specific efforts by the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR), MHI arguably had little choice but to move from messaging only about COVID19 related issues as if it was all about their precious spring meeting/fundraising/network event into something that began to resemble an actual response worthy of industry professionals.
What MHI has done is launch a page of information and linked resources plus sign onto efforts by others in housing. After days of delays, MHI changed their Congress and Expo site to say how “The health and safety of our attendees, exhibitors, sponsors and staff are a top priority for MHI.” If so, why did they follow so many others in postponing their event, after days of warnings on MHProNews?
As MHI has done for some years now, they also ask members to send a message to the party(ies) being lobbied. What about their self-proclaimed clout?
Note that several of these methods used by MHI arguably include a type of sociological and psychological ‘glue’ that keeps busy and perhaps too trusting readers nodding in agreement. Rephrased, they types of tactics that a consultant or other informed source could teach MHI leaders in their messaging, knowing it will work on a certain percentage of people reading their missives. It is a way of keeping members and possibly attracting others, but all the time, despite the posturing, what have they actually achieved? The industry has underperformed ever since Berkshire Hathaway bought Clayton Homes, 21st Mortgage Corporation and other pieces of the industry. How could that be – given Berkshire’s enormous resources – unless underperformance keeps the industry consolidating at a discount and it is all part of the plan? One need look no further than Kevin Clayton’s quote above and similar quotes by Warren Buffett on his moat-buildling business strategies.
For MHI’s apparent ‘Johnny Come Lately’ steps, they brazenly claimed in a 3.28.2020 email headline that “MHI Ensures Housing Operations are Considered Essential by the Department of Homeland Security.” MHI Ensures? Seriously?
Their chutzpah is breathtaking.
What they arguably have done is demonstrate that they can build a webpage on a specific topic, no magic there, right? But that then begs the question, why do they lack even a mention of the enhanced preemption clause of the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000 on their own website? Why is there no ‘Enhanced Preemption Resources Page‘ on the MHI website just as they now have a COVID19 Resources Page?
Because as another previous whistleblower tipped MHProNews, MHI had such a Manufactured Housing Improvement Act document page on their website circa 2003 that specifically itemized progress being made on the “enhanced preemption” issue. Why is it that such a valuable resource vanished sometime after Clayton Homes was acquired by Warren Buffett led Berkshire Hathaway?
By action and inaction, through promises made and demonstrably not kept, MHI and their puppet masters have step by step connected the dots on “insiders” club that are working to consolidate the industry by hook or crook. Newcomers and longer gem readers alike should ponder anew what MHI insider Nathan Smith said while he was their Chairman.
- Listen to the video carefully. Nathan Smith of SSK Communities which has since been rebranded as Flagship Communities – promised to be pro-active not reactive.
- Smith laughed as he said that he wanted to consolidate all the land lease communities for himself.
- He laughed as he said that manufactured housing is a ‘terrible business’ as a way of warning off potential entrants into the field.
Those are potential talking points – when closely examined – that are building blocks for market manipulation that could be actionable under specific federal and/or state laws.
The combination of facts outlined in this report, analysis and commentary make plain the dark reality that Berkshire Hathaway, Clayton Homes, and MHI at various levels are working to undermine the industry’s independents from within.
That effort is arguably being done in conjunction with a few other larger corporations that are not Berkshire-owned, but routinely have other connections with brands owned by Berkshire.
Prima Facie Evidence…
This isn’t mere speculation, as there are specific statements made by Kevin Clayton – note the example above – and the pull quotes from publicly traded firms that have openly said that Mergers and Acquisitions – M&A or consolidation activities are their primary goal. Laurie Hough, Executive Vice President (EVP) and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of MHI member Skyline Champion put it bluntly. Skyline Champion is “really more focused on growth of the company through M&A. That would definitely be our top priority.”
Their own investor relations package makes that same point. Even though some 80 percent of the industry’s production are in the hands of 3 MHI member companies – Clayton, Skyline-Champion and Cavco Industires – they are going to focus on consolidating the remaining 20 percent? But that is there own statement. As a publicly traded firm, that statement is supposed to be candid. It should be taken seriously. Note that Cavco’s investor relations package makes a similar point. Why aren’t they make a big push for manufactured home acceptance and for the full implementation of the MHIA’s enhanced preemption provision? Why aren’t they making a full court press for the implementation of the Duty to Serve (DTS) by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on all manufactured homes, not just some of them?
Restated, both their patterns of behavior and their own words point to consolidation vs. industry expansion. Coupled with another whistleblower – an anonymous source who apparently has ties to MHI – provides documents that demonstrated that now CEO Lesli Gooch has been moonlighting as a lobbyist for non-manufactured housing interests.
The stunning combination of documents point to apparent conflicts of interest, plus the other evidence as noted should be a wake up call to the industry’s independents.
‘Independents’ in this context may be a firm in or out of MHI membership and should be understood as any producer, suppliers, retailers or communities not owned directly by one of the industry’s select group of dominating firms that have apparently swayed MHI policies for years.
The case against the purported manipulation of manufactured housing from within grows stronger as time moves on. In Alinskyite fashion as summarized by Rahm Emanuel, they never let a serious crisis go to waste to take out more manufactured housing independents and keep the industry underperforming, all while posturing the opposite. That lack of integrity is another Alinsky method too.
Those with additional insights are welcome to contact MHProNews. The need for sound information from sources that aren’t feeding into the narratives of those who have led manufactured housing into historic underperformance has arguably never been greater. The evidence is there for anyone with open eyes and a curious mind to see.
MHI routinely ingnores the role MHARR’s efforts on related issues could be making. But unlike MHI, MHARR doesn’t make it sound like they hung the moon single handed. They do what they think prudent and move on to other efforts that need to be balanced.
To learn more about these issues and how they impact affordable manufactured housing, see the related reports for more. That’s a wrap on this installment of manufactured home “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
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