“It’s not what you know but who you know.”
– American maxim.
Preface. This report will outline the seemingly obvious conflicts of interest and other problematic behavior involving Brian D. Montgomery, J.D., and some of the insiders in the manufactured housing industry. As is our modus operandi, this report will take a systematic approach, laying out known facts and third-party sources of information that are routinely reliable. The initial details may seem dry, but will lead to controversial issues that will establish the foundation for the following.
With the facts, background, ‘following the money’ – and consequences – laid out, this report will then state the case for thoughtful professionals and advocates to reject the nomination of Montgomery and/or to have the Trump Administration to withdraw his nomination to be HUD’s Deputy Secretary.
About Brian Montgomery
“Brian Darrell Montgomery (born August 2, 1956) is the current Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development for Housing, also known as the commissioner of the Federal Housing Administration. With the departure of Pam Patenaude in January 2019, he also serves as the acting United States Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. In October 2019, Montgomery was nominated to become the next Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. ” says Wikipedia.
“He formerly served as Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development for Housing in the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development during the administration of George W. Bush. He was confirmed to the position in February 2005 and resigned in July 2009.  President Donald Trump nominated him to return to his former position as Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development for Housing,  and he was confirmed by the Senate in May 2018. ” also per Wikipedia.
What’s oddly missing from the Wikipedia page is any mention of the Collingswood Group, which Montgomery is a founding member of, and was a key part of his years between government gigs.
Nor is there any mention of Radian, where he was a board member.
From the Radian website:
Clayton Holdings, based in Denver, is the largest and longest-standing due diligence and surveillance firm in the mortgage industry.”
Radian’s website also says that in 2014, “Radian acquires Clayton Holdings LLC, including ownership interests in Green River Capital LLC and EuroRisk.”
From the Clayton Holdings’ website is the following.
“About Clayton Holdings LLC
Clayton Services LLC, a Covius Solution, is a premier global provider of mortgage and real-estate market risk management solutions including residential loan due diligence, servicing oversight and transaction management services.”
Montgomery and Radian
In a news release from Radian on April 26, 2012 using BusinessWire, a Berkshire Hathaway owned company, is this from their longer release. They provided this snapshot.
“About Brian Montgomery
Brian D. Montgomery is Chairman of The Collingwood Group, LLC, a Washington, DC based business advisory firm he joined in 2009. In June 2005, Mr. Montgomery was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Assistant Secretary for Housing and Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Commissioner within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In response to HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan’s request at the start of the Obama Administration, Brian continued to serve in this role until July 2009, assisting with transition matters involving the Federal Housing Administration and subprime mortgage crisis. Prior to his appointment with HUD, Brian served in the White House for President George W. Bush as Deputy Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary (2003-05) as well as Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Presidential Advance (2001-03). Mr. Montgomery is a graduate of the University of Houston and also attended the University of Texas.”
Also per Radian in another BusinessWire release on June 5, 2018 is this: “Radian Board Member Brian Montgomery Named FHA Commissioner,” with the subheading, “Montgomery steps down from Radian Board of Directors.”
“Radian once again congratulates Brian on this tremendous honor and thanks him for his knowledge and expertise which he has provided to us, since 2012,” said Radian Chief Executive Officer Rick Thornberry in that same press release. “We wish him well in this position and know that he will bring the same high degree of professionalism to the FHA which he provided to our company over the past six years.”
That same release also said:
- A veteran senior public servant, this will be Montgomery’s second time to serve as FHA Commissioner. He previously served from 2005 to 2009. Montgomery joined Radian’s Board of Directors in 2012.
- In addition to his previous service as FHA Commissioner, Montgomery also served on the Federal Housing Finance Board from 2005 to 2008 as well as the Board of NeighborWorks America from 2005 to 2009. NeighborWorks America is a federally chartered non-profit agency that provides grants and technical assistance to local housing agencies.
Brian Montgomery and Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI)
From the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) “News & Updates” on November 27, 2019 is the following.
WASHINGTON D.C. — The Senate Banking Committee held a hearing November 20 to discuss the nomination of Brian Montgomery to serve as Deputy Secretary of HUD. MHI has been working closely with Montgomery, who currently serves as HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Housing and Federal Housing Commissioner, to advance the industry’s priorities of updating the FHA Title I and II Programs and carrying out expansive manufactured housing regulation revisions and updates. Montgomery has been a long time industry supporter who has spoken at numerous MHI events, including our Annual Fly-In and the Homes on the Hill event this year. Industry media quoted Dr. Lesli Gooch, MHI’s Executive Vice President and CEO-elect, who stated, “The Manufactured Housing Institute applauds the nomination of Brian Montgomery for Deputy Secretary of HUD. His leadership and vision during two tours at HUD demonstrates his commitment to solving our nation’s affordable housing supply challenges through solutions that support innovative housing methods.”
Notice as a disclosure, that unnamed industry media referenced by MHI was not MHProNews, nor our MHLivingNews sister site.
Indeed, there are a number of photo-ops and shout-outs given by MHI over time in a favorable fashion to Montgomery. MHProNews has previously used satirical levity in early 2019 to illustrate the point about MHI, their leadership and HUD’s Montgomery chummy relationship that oddly fails to ask about the obvious need to enforce existing laws that are favorable to manufactured housing independents. Note that later in 2019, Jennison’s retirement was announced, as was predicted. Lesli Gooch is now their CEO, while Mark Bowersox has taken the title of MHI president.
21st Mortgage Corporation is a sister company to Clayton Homes, both of which are owned by Chairman Warren Buffett led Berkshire Hathaway.
Which begs the question. Given the fact that the manufactured housing program falls under Montgomery’s chain of command at HUD, why hasn’t the “enhanced preemption” provision of the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000 (MHIA) been enforced by Montgomery? Hold that thought for later, mindful that there is ample evidence that Berkshire owned brands dominate MHI. Recent Masthead reports that focus on MHI and Berkshire related topics are linked here and here.
Manufactured Housing Institute and Berkshire Hathaway
The influence and impact on the MHI by Berkshire Hathaway owned brands, including Clayton Homes, is obvious. Among MHI supporters has been Clayton Bank. Jim Clayton, founder of Clayton Homes is also the founder of Clayton Bank, Clayton Holdings LLC, and
According to Zoom, “Jim Clayton – Business Profile | Clayton Holdings LLC | Jim-Clayton.”
The Center for Public Integrity said in a part of a report entitled “WARREN BUFFETT’S MOBILE HOME EMPIRE PREYS ON THE POOR,” the following.
“Jim Clayton, who founded Clayton Homes in 1966, ascended from his roots as a sharecropper’s son to the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans in part by lending at high rates to people with few options. The original Clayton Homes dealership sits adjacent to a Clayton family-owned “Buy Here Pay Here” used car lot, catering to low-income buyers. Across the street is another auto dealership owned by the Clayton family. Down the street is a branch of Jim Clayton’s bank, housed in a Clayton-built manufactured home.”
Back to Collingwood
From the Collingwood website in 2015, “The Collingwood Group, LLC, announced today the formation of Collingwood Capital Advisors, LLC, a registered broker dealer which will provide M&A advisory.”
Collingwood, with Montgomery as a co-founder, also touts: “The firm’s executive team have held leadership positions within housing organizations such as the FHA, the White House, FHFA, and Fannie Mae as well as extensive corporate expertise.”
The “Revolving Door”
“In politics, the “revolving door” is a movement of personnel between roles as legislators and regulators, on one hand, and members of the industries affected by the legislation and regulation, on the other,” says Wikipedia, which also explains that: “The lobbying industry is especially affected by the revolving door concept, as the main asset for a lobbyist is contacts with and influence on government officials.”
Open Secrets says, “Although the influence powerhouses that line Washington’s K Street are just a few miles from the U.S. Capitol building, the most direct path between the two doesn’t necessarily involve public transportation. Instead, it’s through a door—a revolving door that shuffles former federal employees into jobs as lobbyists, consultants and strategists just as the door pulls former hired guns into government careers.”
Investopedia says, “Between 1998 and 2018, the amount of money spent on lobbying in the United States more than doubled to $3.42 billion. It has led to the concern that corporations and special interest groups are able to leverage their money to buy influence and access to key politicians.”
That same page says, “The revolving door may also lead to conflicts of interest, as the regulatory and legislative decisions politicians make may directly benefit them soon after they leave office and work in the private sector.” Some rules governing the revolving door is found at this link here.
The Cornell University Legal Information Institute lays out several laws that pertain to conflicts of interest that includes HUD.
MHProNews Analysis and Commentary
The devil is always in the details, which is one reason we’ve spent more time in recent years at MHProNews and MHLivingNews pulling back the veil on who does what, when, why and for what possible motivations. The Office of Manufactured Housing Programs is part of Montgomery’s chain of command at HUD. William “Bill” Matchneer has said on various occasions that the law was being thwarted, including from inside HUD. So why is it that after years of increasingly problematic placement challenges, that Montgomery hasn’t seen fit to enforce that part of the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000?
Collingwood’s addition of an M&A position – mergers and acquisitions – goes near the heart of an issue that manufactured housing independents and consumers alike should be keenly in tune with, consolidation. Berkshire board member Ron Olson law firm has antitrust law as a specialty. Collingwood has people, including Montgomery, who have expertise and experience in FHA, FHFA, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and numerous manufactured housing and finance issues. Which begs the question.
Why is the industry consolidating and so many independents are suffering during an affordable housing crisis, when MHI touts Montgomery as a champion of manufactured housing? A champion of what? Consolidation? While consolidation occurs, homelessness is growing in California and elsewhere.
This nomination isn’t a left or right issue, it’s a right or wrong matter.
There is more on Montgomery that could be mentioned, who was previously opposed for a role at HUD by prominent Democratic 2020 hopefuls, such as Senators Bernie Sanders (VT-I self-described Socialist Democrat) and Elizabeth Warren (MA-D). Not because of other politico’s opposition, but because of the facts outlined above and below, MHProNews editorially opposes Montgomery. Additionally, he should arguably be removed from federal service altogether for a variety of conflicts of interest and failure to enforce the law that is in his authority.
When MHI supports someone as earnestly as they are promoting Montgomery, that alone should be a warning sign, shouldn’t it?
There are perhaps good reasons why MHI and corporate leaders with Berkshire Hathaway owned brands don’t challenge such reports. Among them could be the point that for years, they praised our reporting, analysis, and objectivity.
In the video below, note the comment at about the 25 second time marker. Note too the comments by Dick Ernst, MHI award winner, near the end of this same video about MHProNews’ – as Ernst said – willingness to take a strong position on controversial issues because of our belief in the industry and desire to move it forward. Now former MHI president Richard “Dick” Jennison praised our publication several times in writing and on camera, as the video clips below reflects too.
After these patterns and concerns began to be exposed, when asked about such issues as the industry’s lack of performance during an affordable housing crisis, the Berkshire brands and MHI routinely now decline comment. They focus instead on so-called ‘razzle dazzle’ statements, videos and photo ops with key officials. But when closely examined, they make little sense and fail to prove what they claim. That is arguably to befuddle those who may not be paying close attention. As has been previously noted, per SPJ guidance, as is reflected in the third bullet in the second box below. But once insider tips, growing evidence of purported corruption and the patterns of behavior became clear, our efforts have been focused on holding the powerful to account.
That’s today’s first look at “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.)
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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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