Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) law and regulations are a specialized arena of legal practice. A simple Google search demonstrates that point.
The SEC is tasked with regulating publicly traded companies.
It was the SEC that issued a subpoena to former Cavco Industries (CVCO) Chairman and CEO Joe Stegmayer and his firm in 2018. When that was made public by the firm’s announcement just over a year ago, CVCO stock fell sharply. A series of plaintiffs’ shareholders legal inquiries followed.
Public statements by Cavco make it clear that they’ve spent millions in insurance and other legal defensive strategies. The firm’s stock, in fits and starts, has slowly climbed back.
At the recent Washington, D.C. listening session, Mark Weiss, J.D., President and CEO of the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) cited Cavco’s own public statements about Duty to Serve manufactured housing by the FHFA regulated Enterprises of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as a reason why the industry is underperforming.
David Dworkin made a statement in his comments letter about DTS and manufactured housing. Given his prior role with Fannie Mae, Dworkin said that Fannie had the resources to do what was necessary to fully implement the 2008 law. That stood in stark contrast to what the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) Executive Vice President (EVP) and CEO-elect Lesli Gooch’s comments letter on the same topic stated.
David Dworkin, National Housing Conference, Compared and Contrasted with Lesli Gooch, Manufactured Housing Institute on Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Proposed Modifications to FHFA on Duty to Serve Finance Plans
It must not be forgotten that Cavco’s ability to grow their market share was accomplished in good measure by the support from Third Avenue Value Fund (TAVX?). They cut all of their stock holding in Cavco not long before the official word of the SEC subpoena was made public. Coincidence?
Besides essentially ignoring the allegations of antitrust and other legal issues involving 21st Mortgage Corporation and Clayton Homes, MHI stands credibly accuses of several problematic practices that arguably harm manufactured housing’s performance in the marketplace. However, they posture for their members the opposite, using photo ops, videos, rewarded surrogates, their own messages and other ‘evidence’ of their self-proclaimed clout.
But a close examination of statements by EVP and CEO-elect Lesli Gooch and others at MHI routinely reveals a pattern of purported paltering. That’s a mix of accurate, misleading and/or false information designed to fool those who may not be paying close attention.
Tim Williams, former chairman of MHI, still a board member, and president and CEO of the Berkshire Hathaway owned 21st Mortgage Corporation has a lengthy history of statements and actions that when added up amount to an arguable effort on their part to divert Duty to Serve away from mainstream manufactured housing.
MHI – Nonprofit Carrying Out Who’s Wishes?
MHI’s messages and website state that they represent ‘all segments of manufactured and factory built housing.’ Really? Even casual attention to what was said by numerous speakers at the 12.2.2019 FHFA listening session revealed numerous voices that would strongly object to that claim.
Among the problematic practices in Arlington, VA based MHI are purported tacit tolerance of business practices that spark negative media, public officials and other backlash. They also demonstrably fail to push for the full enforcement of those portions good laws that might benefit manufactured housing, a claim when asked to respond to they routinely decline commenting on.
DTS statements beyond those of Weiss’ or Dworkin’s are joined by numerous others at the FHFA listening session on December 2, 2019 that illustrated the gaping disconnect between MHI’s claims to represent all aspects of manufactured and factory built housing and reality. Meanwhile, MHI continues doing more photo and video opportunities that posture efforts while producing no measurable results.
The acid test for their lack of effectiveness is found in production and shipment reports. How is it possible that with decades of useful third party studies demonstrating the proven effectiveness of manufactured homes as the most affordable new housing in America that the industry’s production declined year over year? Given the resources of MHI or their backers like Berkshire Hathaway owned brands, can there be any other reasonable explanation other than that the powers that be want low sales for their own motivations? And given the consolidation that has taken place at discounted valuations over the past decade plus, isn’t underperformance a useful means to accomplish consolidation in a manner that might escape regulatory notice?
State association executives that once used to periodically raise concerns about MHI’s lack of effort have either left the association for their failure to perform, or have effectively been silenced through tactics described in the in the report linked from the text image box below.
Tim Williams’ own stated logic stands starkly unfulfilled, as does the advice of the late Howard Walker, J.D., then with Equity LifeStyle Properties.
It should be noted that some of the very people who now seek to divert attention away from our reports previously praised them.
Apparently, once we uncovered – through insider tips, documents and other evidence – the realities vs. the posturing, MHProNews and our sister site became persona non grata?
The de facto beneficiary of the status quo on DTS and a lack of reforms at FHA, is 21st Mortgage Corporation and Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance (VMF) both sister companies wholly owned by the Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate, which also owns Clayton Homes. The FHA’s top man is Brian Montgomery, who is backed by MHI for a Trump Administration nomination to be HUD’s next Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Sources from inside the D.C. beltway have told MHProNews that since Montgomery return to HUD, Trump Administration agenda reforms at HUD have slowed dramatically. Is it a coincidence that MHI claims a cozy relationship with Montgomery and reforms are slowing?
Sources in and out of HUD have told MHProNews that while Secretary Carson may or may not be informed about the nuances of the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000, specifically the enhanced preemption issue, by contrast Montgomery knows the law well. If so, that logically means that Montgomery is part of the internal roadblocks at HUD that keep the law from being properly enforced.
The importance of the law is not disputed by MHI or MHARR, both of whom agree on paper that the law needs to be fully enforced. However, MHI – which clearly has greater access and is focused on post-production, not just production related issues as MHARR is, seems to be making more of a show of supporting enhanced preemption than actually pushing for it effectively.
Who benefits from that behavior? Who is harmed?
The beneficiaries short term would be larger producers and consolidators. Smaller companies have a demonstrably more difficult time fighting regulatory hurdles, and NAM and others have documented.
As to who is harmed, the answers are millions. Those who are among the 111 million in many ways ‘trapped’ in rental housing who could afford to own would be among them. But so too are those who already own manufactured homes, who due to a lack of enforcement of useful portions of laws like DTS and enhanced preemption find themselves with fewer placement, lending or other options.
There is a case to be made for a serious need for several federal and/or state and other legal investigations by public officials into Clayton, 21st, VMF, Cavco, MHI and possibly Skyline Champion (SKY) among other MHI members for potentially illegal practices.
MHARR and some resident leaders are pushing for public hearings need to be held to apprise the public of problematic practices tied to these organizations.
Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger should arguably be among those asked to testify under oath, as should Kevin Clayton, Tim Williams, Nathan Smith, Richard ‘Dick’ Jennison, Jason Boehlert, Lesli Gooch, Mark Bowersox, Brian Montgomery, Pam Danner, Teresa Payne, Tom Heinemann and Rick Robinson, among others.
Among those others should be William ‘Bill’ Matchneer, and certain officials from MHARR – who are uniquely positioned to shed light on various circumstances and insights into industry practices as it pertains to enhanced preemption, DTS, the 10/10 rule at FHA, and more
There are clearly good reasons why lawmakers, media, and federal officials from a variety of agencies are investigating Berkshire brands and others with clear ties to MHI.
Tens of millions of real people are plainly being harmed by the status quo. Who says? Among others, that is a basic premise of the White House Council on Eliminating Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing chaired by HUD Secretary Carson. When they say that regulatory barriers – including zoning and rent control – are root issues, then the various forms of market manipulation fostered by the Omaha-Knoxville-Arlington axis and their ‘big boy’ allies must be scrutinized to discern their role in these issues.
With affordable housing being a key issue, and with the lack of proper implementation of good existing laws being a contributing factor to the status quo, this is an issue fraught with risks for many in and beyond Washington, D.C.
It should be noted that the SEC has been mum on further details of the case. Cavco has made statements relative to their costs of dealing with the matter, but has said little of substance as to the details of the SEC investigation of Stegmayer, their own firm, and another that has not been named.
Given decades of useful third-party research that routinely praised manufactured homes, it is difficult to imagine how manufactured housing can be performing so poorly, absent incompetence or some scheme designed to consolidate the industry during an affordable housing crisis. The people at MHI are routinely well educated. That mitigates against an argument for incompetence.
As those researchers noted in the report linked above, herein and others below the byline have detailed, manufactured homes is a much-needed product that performs in a uniquely beneficial fashion for those seeking affordable housing. Secretary Carson has argued as much on several occasions.
That said, Dr. Carson’s role at the agency he leads has the authority to have HUD’s general counsel intervene in cases of problematic zoning and placement issues and/or to ask the Department of Justice to take on such cases.
There is much known, as the linked report and this outline makes plain.
But there are also details that can only be discovered and unpacked by those who have subpoena powers. The SEC, HUD, FTC, DOJ along with other possible federal and state agencies need to investigate. Investors where already harmed once at Cavco, are other such harms looming? The logical answer is yes, so long as the status quo continues. Media like this platform reports and to some degree can advocate. But it is public officials who are tasked with the job of making sure laws are enforced.
That’s a wrap on this Friday morning installment of manufactured housing trade media’s #1 source for “Industry News, Tips, and Views Pros Can Use,” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © (News, fact-checks, analysis, and commentary.)
Submitted by Soheyla Kovach for MHProNews.com.
Click the image/text box below to access relevant, related information.
MHARR Washington Update November 1, 2019- MHCC Being Undermined by HUD Manipulation, FHFA Shocker: GSEs “In Compliance” With Gutted DTS! | Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform
MHCC held its most recent meeting in Washington, D.C. from October 29-31, 2019. While the Committee approved and recommended to HUD several potentially…
Affordable Housing Needed, Corporate Corruption, and Manufactured Homes – Time to Get Federal Officials Fully Involved? – manufacturedhomelivingnews.com
Imagine for the new few minutes that you are a detective trying to solve a mystery. Detectives look for clues and examine evidence. Investigators ought to be objective. Like a doctor seeking the cause for an ailment, there are tests, results, facts, and reason that should to be the drivers for solving any puzzle.