Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

July 16, 2013

Mortgage Bankers Ask Permission to Hijack GSE Reform

By David Reiss

The Mortgage Bankers Association issued a concept paper that calls for a board of mortgage industry representatives to “have the authority to direct the scope and immediate priorities of the [Central Securitization] Platform’s development, and the capability to redirect resources from the GSEs’ back offices to aid the project.” (3) So, to be clear, the mortgage industry wants not only to (a) define the scope and activities of the Platform but also (B) tell Fannie and Freddie how to spend their money to do so.  As Christmas is still a ways away, let’s spend some time working through this industry wishlist in the concept paper, The Central Securitization Platform: Direction, Scope, and Governance.

To start, what is the purpose of this mysterious “Platform?” According to the FHFA, it is supposed to “streamline and simplify those functions that are commoditized and routinely repeated across the secondary mortgage market.”(Building a New Infrastructure for the Secondary Mortgage Market, 5-6)

The MBA is calling for the establishment of “a strong panel of industry representatives to guide the development of the Platform.” (1)

But here is where I become nervous: “this Platform is just one piece of a much larger puzzle that impacts borrowers, lenders and the market as a whole. For these reasons, it is critical to appoint an industry advisory panel with real authority over the Platform’s early development. FHFA should establish and convene this panel before any further development is undertaken.” (2, emphasis added) Moreover, the MBA “believes the Platform should ultimately be owned by the industry as a cooperative.” (2)

So we have an acknowledgement that the Platform impacts “borrowers” and “the market as a whole.” But we have a call for a board with real powers that is only made up of “industry representatives.” Where have I heard a similar story like this before?  Oh, the Mortgage Electronic Recording System (MERS), a system designed by the mortgage industry that has been consistently attacked by local government officials and borrowers.

For now, I am agnostic as to whether the Platform is a good idea or not. But I certainly do not believe that only the industry should have the power to define its “scope and activities” and I certainly don’t believe that the industry should have the power to spend Fannie and Freddie’s money to pursue its vision. There are a lot more interests at stake than just the special interests represented by the MBA.



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