“Support the Manufactured Housing Industry,” the headline from the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) email of 8.30.2021 boldly proclaimed under an oversized MHI logo. While the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) is making a clarion call to act to stop the looming and “costly” DOE energy rule for manufactured homes, by contrast, MHI is busy patting their own backs while asking for more members and money. They claim to have “In just the past few years, the Manufactured Housing Institute has successfully prevented many burdens from being placed on companies and its customers,” but where are MHI’s specific examples? They claim, for instance, that “substantial headways in expanding home financing options.” However, in a previous statement, MHI CEO Lesli Gooch, Ph.D. admitted that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have dropped their manufactured housing pilot programs that would support mainstream manufactured homes. Their audacious and arguably fraudulent message fails to mention that former MHI chairman and still MHI board member Tim Williams, President and CEO of Berkshire owned 21st Mortgage Corporation, told a group of MHI members that he was glad that the MHI pilot project had failed. Williams said that months before the FHFA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – the latter two are referred to collectively as the Government Sponsored Enterprises, GSEs or “Enterprises” – made their announcement public. Which begs the question, how did Williams know so far in advance that the promised but undelivered pilot project would fail?
The subject line of the MHI 8.30.2021 email reads: “Support the MH Industry by Joining MHI.”
That begs several questions. For instance:
- How does supporting MHI support the manufactured housing (MH) industry?
- How effective have they actually been at supporting the industry at large, vs. the interests of self-proclaimed consolidators of the industry?
- Is MHI working for all as they claim? Or are they in fact slyly posturing to work for all while in fact working for the consolidation of the on behalf of self-styled consolidators that are larger MHI members?
The image of the MHI email dated 8.31.2021 is linked here to document the facts and statement found in this report and analysis
Here below the text of that email is shown under the arguably brazen and fraudulent headline “Support the Manufactured Housing Industry” by supporting MHI. Really? Are those one and the same?
Samuel Strommen, from Knudson Law, after doing third-party research into manufactured housing says no.
“The Manufactured Housing Institute [MHI] acts not only as the public mouthpiece of the Big 3 manufacturers (in the name of the industry) but also appears to act directly on its behalf in its various lobbying endeavors.95”
Or here is another similar statement from the legal researcher. Strommen said he “submits that the MHI’s conduct in obfuscation judicious decision-making by the [FHFA and HUD] constitutes a conspiracy to restrain trade under Section 1 of the Sherman Act, and by virtue of the misrepresentative nature of the conduct, should not be afforded Noerr protection.”
Noerr is a legal principle that per left-leaning Wikipedia says: “Under the Noerr–Pennington doctrine, private entities are immune from liability under the antitrust laws.”
But to Strommen’s point, per the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), while First Amendment rights must be balanced and considered, Noerr protection to trade groups such as MHI may not always apply. “Noerr protection to three types of conduct that can use government processes to seek anticompetitive rewards: …2) misrepresentations to a government decision maker in a non-political context; and 3) repetitive requests for government action filed regardless of merit solely to use the government process to suppress competition.” This is one, but not the only concern that Strommen and others have raised about conduct by MHI.
Following the text of the MHI pitch shown below, the facts, evidence, and more from a range of sources – including MHI – will be examined. That’s in keeping with our longstanding mantra at MHProNews, “We Provide, You Decide.” © TMHI has been asked repeatedly to weigh in, and in the absence of their direct comments to the charges against them, this analysis will provide several of their own statements verbatim. Additionally, MHI defenders will be cited too. Thus, these various claims, evidence-based allegations, and related commentary are also in keeping with the tagline of this demonstrably largest and most-read trade medium in the industry. Namely, that we provide manufactured home “Industry News, Tips, and Views Pros Can Use.” © Because as QuoteWise states that Donald Trump once said, “I have learned that what is essential can sometimes by invisible to the eye. That’s where discernment comes in.” He also observed “If something is going to affect your life, it’s best to know as much as you can about it.” Doing so allows the savvy professional to “Look for opportunities in every climate.”
In fairness, it is worth mentioning that not every MHI member brand is corrupt. There are white hats that find themselves working for corrupt organizations, for whatever reasons. Whatever MHI was pre-Berkshire Hathaway, the case can be made that MHI is no longer the same trade group today. That may explain why prior MHI president and CEO Chris Stinebert exited with a polite slap at his own prior bosses before his NDA kicked in.
To demonstrate such concerns, let’s look next at the entire body of the audacious MHI message that followed our respective roasts on MHProNews and MHLivingNews of the apparently ineffective and/or corrupt trade group.
Newcomers and others should be advised that as a former MHI member and MHI Suppliers Division board member, sharing this MHI pitch is not to be misunderstood as an endorsement. Quite the opposite will be made apparent once their claims are carefully examined. That will follow this segment of this report, fact-check, analysis, and editorial commentary.
Support the Manufactured Housing Industry
Now more than ever is a critical time to join the Manufactured Housing Institute, the nonprofit, national trade association representing all facets of the manufactured housing industry. Your membership helps us expand the position of the industry as the foremost provider of quality and affordable housing for millions of Americans.
The Manufactured Housing Institute is at the forefront of protecting your business and expanding opportunities.
In just the past few years, the Manufactured Housing Institute has successfully prevented many burdens from being placed on companies and its customers and has made substantial headways in expanding home financing options, modernizing the federal housing code, and providing government-funded direct rental payments to property owners on behalf of delinquent tenants.
These are important issues that all sectors of our industry must engage in to expand access to manufactured housing nationwide. Nothing can match the power of a unified industry speaking with one voice in Washington, DC.
The Manufactured Housing Institute is recognized as a leader and expert on housing issues by the Administration, Congress, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and other housing groups that shape the industry’s future policies and practices.
The Manufactured Housing Institute’s grassroots campaigns focus on aggressively advancing the interests of the industry and its customers to policymakers. We promote manufactured housing as a resource of innovation and affordable housing, and work hard to improve the flow of capital to manufactured home lending and create a friendlier zoning and regulatory environment to showcase today’s beautiful factory-built homes.
As the manufactured housing industry prospers, so will your business.
To learn more or to join the Manufactured Housing Institute, please call us at 703-558-0400 or visit ManufacturedHousing.org.
We hope you would consider joining your colleagues in the thousand-member strong Manufactured Housing Institute, the national trade association of the manufactured housing industry.
The MHI Team”##
More MHI Facts, Fiction, and Purported Fraud – Analysis and Commentary
The MHProNews Masthead editorially notes that for some years, MHI – while we were still MHI members asked that we stop publishing their own news. While odd, we initially complied, as the reference dated March 2, 2015 linked here makes clear.
On MHI’s own website, they do not post their own news. Why not? After all, MHI emails out statements. Why are their emails not posted on their website?
By contrast, MHARR posts almost everything that the more modest sized national trade group says via email on their own website. On the same date as MHI’s email above, MHARR sent out one of their own about the DOE rules. Within a few hours, it was posted on the MHARR website. MHARR isn’t looking for an Orwellian memory hole, which the evidence herein and linked suggests that MHI actively desires that their readers are not able to easily access on the MHI website their own previous statements, promises, and claims.
Other trade associations routinely do what MHARR does. They may publish the same content word for word when an email to their member/readers goes forth. Or, some other trade groups may post a rephrased version of it online. But either way, the routine for numbers of trade groups is to hope that their information is shared as widely as possible. That is arguably because what they claim aligns with what they do.
For complete clarity, MHI’s behavior is odd at best in how they handle their own emailed “news and updates” or “housing alerts.” Some of those alerts and updates are little more than a pitch to say how great they are, as Strommen observed. What does MHI have to hide if they are doing what they claim to be doing?
The evidence-based argument can be made that MHI is actively engaged in deceiving the bulk of their smaller members. Besides evidence-based claims of antitrust and RICO violations, they are also violating the law by making false or deceptive statements. They such things by a variety of means. Such concerns have been brought to MHI’s leaders numerous times, which include in public settings. Yet, MHI have publicly ducked addressing their patterns of (mis)behavior numerous times. Examples of that are shown below.
With that brief backdrop, let’s focus more specifically at this pitch for new members. Why are they making it? MHProNews argued that MHI has become “Buffett’s Buffet.” Their major brands want smaller members, who often making only token payments for membership. Why? Because that gives them an opportunity to learn about them during mixers and meetings. They get an opportunity to acquire and/or otherwise target independents.
Following that report, that contention has been tested numerous times and has been proven demonstrably true. The evidence is often provided by MHI’s own corporate members.
- In order to prepare for a formal filing, and in fairness to prepare any white hat MHI members and others for what is coming next, the MHI pitch for new members will be ‘fisked.’
- Additional MHI information from a prior message by MHI will also be provided below.
- For instance. It was claimed by MHI that they indicated that were preparing to launch a study that would become a national image and marketing campaign.
There is more below, but first let’s define two relevant terms when examining MHI claims and behavior. The terms are Fisk and Palter.
A Fisk is defined by the Cambridge dictionary as: “to make an argument seem wrong or stupid by showing the mistakes in each of its points.” Fisking is defined by left-leaning Wikipedia as: “Fisking is a term invented by sections of the blogoshpere opposed to the pro-Arab reporting of Robert Fisk. It describes the process of shredding a written argument line-by-line, parsing the meaning and providing counterpoints and is so called following application of the proceedure to Robert Fisk’s articles.” (Note typo in the original from Wikipedia.) Vocabulary says that “Palter is an unusual word for a common thing: speaking or writing in a way that bamboozles others.” The Free Dictionary says that “Palter” is: “To talk or act insincerely or misleadingly; equivocate.” Some have described it as a mix of truth and falsehood, where the truth is used to lull the target of the deception into a false sense of trust in the person or group which is engaged in paltering. Or as the BBC said in a Nov 15, 2017 report “The line between truth and lies is becoming ever murkier, finds Melissa Hogenboom. There’s even a word for a very different form of lying [paltering]. It is no secret that politicians often lie, but consider this – they can do so simply by telling the truth.” Harvard has published a scholarly paper on the topic “Artful Paltering: The Risks and Rewards of Using Truthful Statements to Mislead Others.”
Paltering is used by politicians, but also by some in business and lobbying too. While there has always been some measure of paltering, which can be dated back to Satan tempting Adam and Eve with a mix of truth and deception in the Garden of Eden, paltering is – as Harvard suggests – becoming a devious artform. The notions in this paragraph should be kept in mind while reading MHI’s claims.
Let’s start with this part of MHI’s statement posted above to illustrate.
- “As the manufactured housing industry prospers, so will your business.”
That statement is demonstrably true and logical too. But that statement true statement is hardly evidence that MHI is working for the interests of members of whatever size in “all” segments of the industry, as they claim.
Here is another example of paltering from MHI.
- “We hope you would consider joining your colleagues in the thousand-member strong Manufactured Housing Institute, the national trade association of the manufactured housing industry.”
That may be technically true in some sense that they have “1000 members.” But as the screen capture below indicates, the 2019 MHI email says that some 360+ of those “members” are in fact locations for Clayton retail or various divisions of Clayton Homes. Meaning, approaching forty percent of the MHI membership is actually a single entity in a pragmatic sense. But when MHI changed some of their governing documents, an email from then MHI President and CEO Richard “Dick” Jennison made the hyperbolic claim that they had hundreds of new members overnight. When specifically asked were these members Clayton locations (the only thing that made sense), Jennison ducked a direct reply to that, claiming (apparently falsely) that he did not have the level of detail in his membership report. What balderdash. But that first message from Jennison to MHProNews saying there were ‘hundreds’ of new members was technically true, but misleading. These are examples of MHI paltering.
Next, let’s look at this line from MHI’s 8.30.2021 email, shown above.
- “The Manufactured Housing Institute is at the forefront of protecting your business and expanding opportunities.”
If so, where is the evidence to support MHI’s bold claim? If so, why is a highly placed source in a big MHI member brand telling MHProNews that the industry is facing another downturn if MHI fails to act and do its job?
MHProNews has advocated for years the principle of separating the wheat from the chaff. What is true and demonstrable should be separated from what is spin, paltering, deception, misdirection, or a bold lie.
Let’s note that it is true when MHI claims that the manufactured housing is collectively the profession or “industry as the foremost provider of quality and affordable housing for millions of Americans.” Manufactured housing is the foremost provider of affordable housing for millions of Americans. That part is true.
But the balance of that opening paragraph is begging for evidence from MHI. Starting with their subject line claim: “Support the MH Industry by Joining MHI.” How is supporting MHI equal to “Support the Manufactured Housing Industry” – if they have evidence to prove that, why don’t they give a long laundry list of examples? But as our opening paragraph above makes clear, starting with their brazen claim about financing, it is quite different than what MHI claims. Re-read that opening paragraph for clear and factual examples that contradict MHI’s claims. Because their own members have denied that such is the reality.
That noted, why did MHI say: “Now more than ever is a critical time to join the Manufactured Housing Institute, the nonprofit, national trade association representing all facets of the manufactured housing industry.” The word representing must be read in conjunction with its legal meaning and their annual statement to the IRS that is filed under penalties of perjury. In that statement, MHI claims they are working to improve the market, mitigate regulatory barriers, and increase acceptance of manufactured housing.
Let’s be clear. This sentence from MHI that they are “representing all facets of the manufactured housing industry” is pure BS. Perhaps in some tortured way, they represent the industry, but not in the sense that they are working to advance the industry’s interests so that all can experience robust growth. Ironically, it is Kevin Clayton, speaking on behalf of MHI that disproves their effectiveness. The very things that MHI claims, Clayton’s words – properly discerned – debunks.
Per MHI’s email, “Your membership helps us expand the position of the industry as the foremost provider of quality and affordable housing for millions of Americans.” When some of their members are carefully examined, they are part of huge hedge funds and conglomerates. Are reasonable people going to believe that a few hundred or even several thousands of dollars a year is going to make a difference in advancing the position of the industry? Its balderdash. Berkshire Hathaway used to own dozens of newspapers. Kevin Clayton bragged about the ability of Berkshire to synergize. If so, then why didn’t Berkshire use its own media brands to promote manufactured housing properly?
More to the point, when Barack Obama was in the White House, why did Warren Buffett back his re-election when Obama promised to veto the MHI backed Preserving Access to Manufactured Housing Act?
Preserving Access proved to be multiple years of deception and misdirection. The industry was told that if it wasn’t passed, the industry was doomed. Who said? Tim Williams, who served as MHI’s chairman and whose 21st Mortgage Corporation is owned by Berkshire. At certain points in time, before MHProNews finally ‘woke up’ to the ruse, the powers that be over MHI must have had great laughs in Knoxville and Omaha. Thankfully, MHProNews finally wised up to the sobering reality that their independents from all sectors of the industry were broadly being hoodwinked. Whatever MHI was, during Chris Stinebert’s time at the association, it stopped being sometime after Berkshire Hathaway and its allies began to flex their muscles over MHI.
Let’s look further at more MHI claims from their 8.30.2021 email and fisk those too.
- “The Manufactured Housing Institute is at the forefront of protecting your business and expanding opportunities.”
That’s a demonstrable lie. Who says? Samuel Strommen with Knudson Law.
Note that MHI sent out this 8.30.2021 appeal for more members and money following that report and the one linked below.
Why is that? Because there is an old adage among con artists. You “never give up the con.” Even after a con is discovered and called out, the con artist must still posture as before. Otherwise, a range of legal issues could result. So, it is no surprise that MHI is keeping up their pretense. It is a takeaway straight out of the Godfather.
But let’s press on with this FISKING and analysis. MHI’s 8.30.2021 email – which is sent via “the wires” of the internet, which makes it subject of a variety of RICO and FTC related regulations and laws – claimed the following.
- “In just the past few years, the Manufactured Housing Institute has successfully prevented many burdens from being placed on companies and its customers and has made substantial headways in expanding home financing options, modernizing the federal housing code, and providing government-funded direct rental payments to property owners on behalf of delinquent tenants.”
The last part of that has a kernel of truth, because MHI did argue for “and providing government-funded direct rental payments to property owners on behalf of delinquent tenants.” But they did so as part of what MHI calls a “coalition” of housing providers that are the industry’s direct competitors. There is no mention of that – a lie or deception by omission. Nor did MHI need to be a part of such a coalition. Nor does MHI note that MHARR has been involved in the process of “modernizing the federal [manufactured housing code],” so it is hardly an MHI only effort. That’s at best a bad oversight, at worst, it is another deception or lie by omission.
Instead of MHI weighing in on the DOE energy rule in this fresh email that is being fisked, as MHARR did as shown in the report linked below, MHI was busy touting how great they are while they beg for the money and consolidation opportunities that new members provide.
Then, there is this section of their fresh email.
- “These are important issues that all sectors of our industry must engage in to expand access to manufactured housing nationwide. Nothing can match the power of a unified industry speaking with one voice in Washington, DC.”
If MHI were authentically working for “all sectors of our industry,” MHProNews would applaud them. If MHI wanted to consider all points of view, they would never have pushed out voices that bring a different viewpoint.
But when MHProNews pointed out at an MHI meeting over 4 years ago that as land-lease communities fill up, perhaps 1/3rd of industry’s production was at risk. What was MHI’s response? When MHProNews asked what would MHI do about Pamela Danner – whom they reportedly helped put in place at HUD – to get her to be reasonable on regulatory issues, what did MHI do?
MHI conjured up an excuse to eject MHProNews as a member. That’s despite their repeated claim that they represent all segments of the industry. That’s despite the claim by an outside attorney to MHI, David Goch, who claimed via a letter that was reportedly mailed and/or sent electronically to another MHI member that they wanted to hear from all segments of the industry. That’s a brazen, demonstrably lie.
MHI is not seeking the overall interests of all segments and members of the industry, if they did, the industry might be doing over 500,000 new homes a year, rather than hoping to crack the 100,000 mark this year. Ironically, Goch helps make that point.
What MHI demonstrably wants is new members and all others to fall into line. Call MHI into question, and they may have an attorney like David Goch send you a nastygram by certified mail. Praise MHI, or silently obey, and they may treat you nicer, until a dominating member wants your business. They are arguably more akin to a protection racket than they are an authentic trade group. But let’s look at two more paragraphs from MHI’s Big Lie email.
- “The Manufactured Housing Institute is recognized as a leader and expert on housing issues by the Administration, Congress, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and other housing groups that shape the industry’s future policies and practices.”
It is one thing to be an expert, but an entirely different thing to use that expertise in a way that benefits all segments of the industry. During the Obama-Biden years, or the Trump-Pence years, MHI demonstrated access. They are doing so once more with the Biden-Harris White House and a Democratically dominated Congress.
- The Manufactured Housing Institute’s grassroots campaigns focus on aggressively advancing the interests of the industry and its customers to policymakers. We promote manufactured housing as a resource of innovation and affordable housing, and work hard to improve the flow of capital to manufactured home lending and create a friendlier zoning and regulatory environment to showcase today’s beautiful factory-built homes.
So what evidence can MHI provide for something that they accomplished that creates more lending, easier placement or the obvious need to properly implement laws that already exist? It is MHI’s own members and leaders that by accident or design have debunked MHI’s bold emailed and other lies. Those MHI lies are deceptive marketing and more. They merit the full treatment of the law.
The enhanced preemption provision of the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000 (MHIA or 2000 reform law) is demonstrably not being implemented. MHI admits that to be true. Yet, no one had more access and apparent clout than MHI. They can’t have it both ways. See the reports linked above and below.
That “MHI in Action” was the opposite of advancing the industry’s interests.
It is Democrats in Congress who are pushing for a new law that hopes to curb abuses that often trace back to MHI members.
These are inconvenient truths. Let’s fisk the last big segment before pressing on to some flashbacks that demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that MHI is either massively inept OR they are working for consolidators and not “all” segments of the industry.
The zoning and placement issue, as pitched by MHI and Kevin Clayton, have been carefully unpacked and examined below.
The games being played by MHI on behalf of Berkshire Hathaway lending is a matter of federal record.
How did MHI leaders respond to these and other claims?
Silence. Given repeated opportunities by email or live to respond to these allegations and evidence, what does MHI do? They trout out surrogates that easily get swatted down. They roll out pitches for membership, because they can not afford to give up the con.
But let’s flash back.
Kevin Clayton claimed on a video dated late 2011 that the industry was ready to do an image and educational campaign. Here is how the phrased it.
Years went by with no such effort as Clayton claimed. Note that he spoke in a broad sense above, and when that occurs, it often means MHI. That sets up the next segment of this report, fact check, and analysis.
MHI and the Repeated Promise of a National Campaign
A longtime MHI member wrote MHProNews when this following MHI “housing alert” that follows his remarks. With respect to the following, that well known MHI leader shared the remarks shown. The typos are in the original. The bullets are added by MHProNews, but the text is as in the original.
- “That MHI blurb is what got me going…
- The blurb says nothing about a new industry dynamic which has changed the industry culture to each builder helping each other. Right.
- I can assure you I know how the major players in MHI feel about this and I’ll swallow my dirty shorts if Clayton and Holbrooks, both fine men, have changed on the elements need to move forward after thr research concludes.
- One almost has the feeling that once again builders want massive free market research paid for all of MHI and not just them.
- That is what came out of Roper in the end. And for what? What did the industry change in its operating style? Nada. And that doesn’t mean NADA.
- No my friend, the MHI blurb answers nothing. You’ll see how this goes.”
The above was dated in the email as sent on February 20, 2017, 7:58 AM. Here is what it was in response to from MHI.
On February 8, 2017 MHI sent out this “housing alert.”
February 8, 2017
MHI Undertakes Major Consumer Research Initiative on Industry Growth Markets
MHI has launched a new strategic research initiative and analysis to profile the housing needs and opportunities for the industry among various underserved homebuyers: millennials, step-down baby boomers and immigrants.
These groups may struggle to qualify and buy entry-level stick-built homes, but may consider a manufactured home for their housing needs and wants. The goal is to obtain information on their wants, needs, preferences and perceptions, and then develop a strategy to help members create an offering that meets the housing needs of these groups, converts them to manufactured homebuyers, and help with MHI’s legislative and regulatory efforts to change the existing HUD Code.
For this research initiative, MHI is working with a diverse group of its manufacturer members and Ducker Worldwide, a respected independent consultant with extensive experience in the residential housing industry, including both site-built and manufactured housing. Ducker is conducting an in-depth study of these underserved entry-level homebuyers and will compare them to our existing manufactured housing customers.
“This initiative will help us develop a robust, fact-based analysis to drive strategy and serve as a basis for change,” said MHI President and CEO Dick Jennison. “The initiative is about significant long-term growth and defining a more expansive market for the manufactured housing industry, and what changes may be required for the industry to successfully appeal to the underserved entry-level homebuyer.”
Among the things the study will address are:
· Identifying the needs, preferences and emotional trigger points for different housing alternatives, including conceptual features and benefits of homes.
· Obtaining in-depth insights regarding the image, position and feasibility for manufactured housing solutions to solve or create value for consumers and their homeownership challenges.
· Determining the critical success factors and key elements needed for consumers to consider and ultimately purchase a manufactured home.
· Analyzing the needs of the different groups and current industry customers to better understand the similarities and differences.
· Providing analytics to estimate conversion levels and translating it to number of housing units.
· Understand how these underserved customer requirements and home needs fit within our current HUD Code and the implications for the future.
· Determining the current image of manufactured housing among consumers in these underserved markets and use it for market positioning and promotional strategies.
Task force members include:
· Keith Anderson, President of Champion Home Builders
· Kevin Clayton, President and CEO of Clayton Homes
· Jayar Daily, Chief Operations Officer of American Homestar Corporation
· Richard Florea, CEO and President of Skyline Corporation
· Joe Stegmayer, Chairman & CEO of Cavco Industries
· Dick Jennison, President & CEO of MHI
· Christopher C. Fisher, Managing Principal of Ducker Worldwide
MHI will provide updates and seek involvement from various MHI members and Divisions, including but not limited to, the Financial Services, Retailers and National Communities Council, once Phase I of this initiative is completed. MHI plans to present to members an analysis of the research results and its next steps in late-summer.
Republication without the express written consent of the Manufactured Housing Institute is strictly prohibited.
© 2017, Manufactured Housing Institute, Inc. (MHI), all rights reserved. ##
Let’s once more note that MHARR invites bloggers and publishers to reprint their information, so long as the content isn’t changed.
By contrast, MHI some years began adding this copyright in an attempt to keep people from sharing their content if they were in any way critical of it. But as MHProNews advised an MHI outside attorney, there are lawful methods for publishing copyrighted statements, perhaps especially so-called ‘news’ statements.
After saber rattling and threats, MHI backed off.
But what MHI has done, per sources and evidence, is attempt to drive a wedge between MHProNews and even longtime industry supporters. Ohio Manufactured Home Association (OMHA) Executive Director, Tim Williams, who for years praised this platform, suddenly turned and began denouncing us while claiming that Berkshire Hathaway, Lesli Gooch, and MHI were the best things since sliced bread. Here is some of what Williams said, past and more recently.
That came in part after exposes of documents demonstrating conflicts of interest by MHI CEO Gooch, who per a tipster demonstrated that she was being paid to lobby for others in mainstream housing while working for MHI.
What was her consequence for that behavior? She was taken on a trip to meet with Kevin Clayton, Tom Hodges (both with Clayton Homes) to meet with then HUD Secretary Ben Carson.
That research campaign that is referenced above ended up producing what became the CrossMods scheme. When MHI did their presentation to MHI’s own members, numbers of them reportedly walked out in protest.
Among the state association MHEC member feedbacks to MHProNews about the research project were statements like this. Paraphrasing,
· third party paid research like this routinely produces the results that the commissioning party desire to see.
· The industry’s states already know what is needed to advance the industry. There was no new research required.
· What about mainstream manufactured housing? Why didn’t they promote the entire industry, instead of just this new class of manufactured homes?
· The project made no sense. HUD Code builders already offered modular homes. There was no need to create a new class that blurred the lines.
The list goes on. But ironically, MHI’s own claims have proven to be so much hot air. Their research has not resulted in a surge of new sales. Indeed, starting at about the time that they made this announcement, the industry went into a mild decline for 2½ years.
It was only following the extreme demand for any housing starting in March 2021 that the 2½ year decline finally reversed.
Those were reported at the time to our readers, as some of the reports linked below exemplify. We are not just publishers, we know marketing in manufactured housing. It was obvious to us from the outset that this scheme was flawed.
Indeed, Tom Hardiman, Executive Director of the Modular Home Builders Association (MHBA) publicly said that MHI was being “deceptive” and demanded that they stop undermining modular and the interests of millions of existing HUD Code manufactured homes.
On August 18, 2021 the following information came in from a nationally known antitrust author and researcher.
Thanks for all the information you sent.
“1. I know a little bit about how MHI has been a part of the problem.
You bring up much more than I knew, of course. I’m not surprised that they have been sabotaging the industry.
2. And I know little about the two laws you also bring up.
3. You make a great point about how fighting monopolies in manufactured housing
is different than in other industries, as laws to do so are already on the books.
4. I agree something should be written and published about this.”
That researcher/author – and we are in contact with several – has said that they are open to doing a specific future report on MHI and its (mis)handling of the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000 and the Duty to Serve Manufactured Housing that is part of HERA 2008. No timetable has been set. But after examining the evidence, the above was part of the longer reply. It concluded warmly as follows.
“Thanks for the email Tony; talk soon.”
The Wrath of Khan?
There are those who think that Lina Khan will be one of those appointed by the Biden White House that will aggressively go after antitrust and other anticompetitive and otherwise illegal market rigging efforts. “Lina Khan was sworn in as Chair of the Federal Trade Commission on June 15, 2021.” Her credentials are strong. Per left-leaning Wikipedia, “Lina M. Khan is an American legal scholar and chair of the Federal Trade Commission. While a student at Yale Law School, she became known for her work in antitrust and competition law in the United States.” MHProNews has cited Khan’s work favorably well in advance of her appointment.
That said, there are reasons for skepticism that Biden’s ‘come to Jesus’ moment on antitrust is anything more than window dressing. Time will tell.
But it hardly seems plausible that the very people that put Biden into the White House are suddenly going to be rewarded by Biden by breaking them up under a barrage of federal antitrust litigation. Time will tell either way. We’d editorially cheer such an outcome, if it proved to be so. But realistically, paltering is occurring well beyond manufactured housing. Consolidation is a reality in other industries, not just manufactured housing.
Final Additional Facts, Summing up and Conclusion
There are apparently reasons why MHI and their dominating brands are mute on serious allegations that are evidence based being lodged against them.
Danny Ghorbani made the obvious statement that MHI has claimed the mantle of representing all segments of the industry. If so, then why aren’t they crossing the finish line on Enhanced Preemption or Duty to Serve?
MHARR offered to team up with state associations to legally battle for enhanced preemption. There was silence. Look no further than Tim Williams, Jim Ayotte, Amy Bliss, or Elizabeth Birch for reasons why there was no response.
While still an MHI member, and early on in my roughly 7 year stint there, this writer asked Tim Williams in a meeting with witnesses, why hasn’t MHI taken HUD to court? In hindsight, with a now former MHI general counsel who wrote a book on that the subject of “Writ of Mandamus” why didn’t MHI seek such a writ?
Williams coolly and politely looked at me, smiled and said in front of dozens of industry peers that – the day may come when MHI would do just that. Really? Where is the evidence for that? Instead, said Williams, they had other efforts in mind before they tried the legal route.
What has happened to those other efforts? Look at what occurred with Pam Danner. The Washington Post exposed MHI’s efforts as mere feckless posturing.
MHI can’t have it both ways. They can’t be the premier trade group that only accomplishes more consolidation. They can’t claim to be working for all segments of the industry, when Kevin Clayton himself admitted – on MHI’s behalf – that thousands of industry firms had folded because of a lack of lending and regulatory barriers.
There is a pattern in the above. The facts and evidence overwhelmingly go against MHI’s claims. That’s not just from industry outsiders. That’s per industry insider too who are willing to sound off against the apparently inept or corrupt behavior by MHI.
In fairness, MHI staff is perhaps only doing what they are told. That said, they have legal obligations that they are failing to meet.
This decade plus pattern can be summed up like this.
· MHI says many things that seem to support industry growth that would – which if done properly – would result in growth.
· MHI’s claims, when carefully examined, reflect evidence of paltering. A mix of truth, lies, deception and misdirection.
· MHI’s behavior and results indicates what Strommen and Marty Lavin, among others, have said.
· By accident or design, MHI is either among the most inept trade groups in the modern era, OR they are corrupt. In fairness, MHI’s staff are intelligent people. It is hard to make the case the they could be so inept. Additionally, they report to a board of directors that overwhelmingly reflect the position of the consolidators of manufactured housing.
The evidence for consolidation being the goal is repeated time and again by MHI’s own members.
Realistically, MHI is not the biggest fish in the pond. That would be Berkshire Hathaway, Blackrock, Apollo, Carlyle, and the list of conglomerate/hedge funds goes on.
· That said, strategically and politically , states and feds may be reluctant to go after those giants.
· By comparison, going after MHI would be easy picking. The evidence against them is strong. Their defenders have proven weak, tepid, and unimaginative. The best that they can do is some aspect of the 6 Ds used by those who have no good argument.
The time is now for MHI to be legally probed. Such a probe with subpoena powers would not doubt reveal other corruption that could later be used against the corporate giants.
What is apparent is that MHI’s leadership are bold liars. They are good liars in the sense that they have held to their own claims. But when their own statements are compared to their own and other statements, the disconnects at MHI become glaringly apparent.
MHProNews has been on record for some time calling for legal action against MHI and others. We’re going to fine tune that a bit to say that such a probe could start with MHI. Once documents are produced, the above pattern will become even more clear. MHI can destroy emails, documents (such as the minutes to the heretofore unreleased closed door meeting with MHI, some key brands, and the GSEs) or whatever. But if the authorities involved do their job properly, a volume of evidence will be produced that will overwhelmingly support the factual and evidence-based claims cited and linked herein.
The Masthead is calling for just such a probe. Our next steps will be made clear in the near term. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, the industry’s white hats are also encouraged to do the following things.
1. Where you have tips that are relevant to this discussion, by all means present it. That can be done on or off the record.
2. If you have evidence and a rationale that can disprove this thesis, by all means, present it. That can be done on or off the record.
3. The MHI call to membership should be MHARR’s call for more membership. We’ve encouraged MHARR to issue their own call. Will they? Time will tell. But what is apparent is that unlike MHI, MHARR is consistent. They’ve authentically advocated for the same things year after year. When the DOE energy rule was last foiled, that was due in no small part to MHARR’s efforts. Other examples could be given that MHARR have over the years pushed the bigger brands to do what is correct. That’s how the MHIA got enacted in the first place.
4. MHARR is a producers trade group. MHI is an umbrella trade group, representing both producers and nonproducers.
5. Non-aligned producers of HUD Code manufactured homes that are not already MHARR members should join them.
6. MHI and MHARR have some dual members. MHARR members are not required to self-identify publicly. MHI members that are not already MHARR members should do so. The evidence is clear. Only MHARR is authentically advocating for a full and robust implementation of the MHIA and the Duty to Serve, or FHA Title I lending that eliminates the 10/10 rule.
7. Those who are already MHARR members, but only have one plant should consider adding others to their MHARR membership.
8. The industry should once and for all forge a post-production trade group that MHARR can team up with. NAMHCO had the right idea, but regrettably, the wrong execution when they picked an ex-MHI VP to represent them.
9. The industry should consider not only a post-production group that MHARR can team up with, but should support an authentic national alternative to MHAction. It is apparent to those who look at the facts that MHAction is to the authentic resident interests what MHI is to industry independents. It is no surprise that MHAction and MHI both get the benefit of Buffett and Berkshire Bucks, even if they may flow through dark money channels.
10. Stay informed and share reports like this. Albert Einstein and honest Abe Lincoln were both correct. The first job is to figure out the root issues, then the solution becomes apparent. President Lincoln noted that no one has a good enough memory to keep all of their own lies straight. This is the problem that MHI’s leaders now face.
The fact that MHI and their outside attorneys are unwilling to publicly debate their own performance and have ducked such a debate for years speaks volumes. The only authentic and sustained such effort was made by MHI member Andy Gedo.
Gedo prudently tossed in the towel. Ayotte, Allen, Williams, Birch, Bliss, et al, they have all chickened out on a public and sustained defense of MHI’s track record. I frankly do not blame them. MHI’s own attorneys won’t defend them in a public debate.
Note that at the end of the day, industry members have to stand up for their own interests. Let me candidly say, when this odyssey began, I was threatened repeatedly and frankly at times felt a measure of fear.
But I personally had to face those fears, thinking that the only way to beat the money was to confront them publicly with facts, evidence, and reason.
I’ve heard from enough souls in our industry, and among consumers too, who have said that they too feel a kind of fear. That’s possible grounds for a Hobbs Act charge.
In our view, the evidence is strong that Strommen is right. MHI and their dominating brands have to legally challenged based upon the evidence. The fact that con artists are keeping up the con is no surprise.
The time for the next steps shown above has arrived. Stay tuned for our part of those next steps. But once more, while we can provide digital evidence, at the end of the day, industry members have to be willing – on and/or off the record – to stand up for themselves too. The many can beat the money. But only if the many show their strength in numbers. ##
The evidence routinely points one way. No wonder why MHI, their major brands, and even their outside attorneys all went silent when it comes to engaging with MHProNews on these troubling trends and growing evidence.
Stay tuned for more of what is ‘behind the curtains’ as well as what is obvious and in your face reports. It is all here, at the runaway largest and most-read source for authentic manufactured home “News through the lens of manufactured homes and factory-built housing” © 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 MHProNews.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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