Money may have been used to buy influence and promote the current anti-appraiser narrative being embraced by key public servants in the executive and legislative branches.
TOOL MAY HELP APPRAISERS CONNECT DOTS TO UNRELENTING CHARACTER ATTACKS
It’s reminiscent of a practice pioneered by Texas savings-and-loan kingpin Tom Gaubert in the 1980s. The idea was to have employees at his crumbling institution and those of his friends funnel a large number of small-dollar political donations to his buddy, Democratic House Speaker Jim Wright.
The speaker, one of the most corrupt to hold the position (and that’s really saying something), spread the wealth. The payola bought time and influence with Congress and increased the ultimate cost of the S&L clean-up to taxpayers. At Gaubert’s institution, one inventive employee reportedly expensed a contribution as a “weed whacker.”
The House Ethics Committee later investigated the speaker’s financial affairs at the urging of a largely unknown Georgia congressman named Newt Gingrich. The bipartisan panel charged Wright with 69 violations of House rules on reporting gifts, accepting gifts from people with an interest in legislation, and for exceeding limits on outside income.
Fast-forward to 2020.
The nation’s real estate appraisers came under surprise attack in early 2020 when then-presidential candidate Joe Biden, apropos of seemingly nothing, rebuked members of the real estate appraisal profession for creating a racial wealth gap in America. Candidate Biden pronounced appraisers “unregulated” and a chief cause of racial wealth inequality in America. He made the statement as though it were the most well-known and widely accepted fact in the world.
…had a strangely anti-appraiser agenda.Before Biden’s bolt from the blue, a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development and Insurance in June 2019 had a strangely anti-appraiser agenda. Now, a web screening tool recently improved upon by the Federal Election Commission may provide some answers.
Like the S&L employees of an earlier shakedown, thousands of workers at loanDepot, Guaranteed Rate, Fairway Independent Mortgage, Caliber Home Loans, New American Funding and United Wholesale Mortgage have been funneling millions in small-dollar donations to political action committees across the political spectrum; much of this activity was in 2019 and 2020 and much of it went to the people currently in office.
Using the screening tool, author-appraiser Jeremy Bagott has compiled an Excel spreadsheet with over 43,000 small-dollar donations totaling more than $11 million from individual employees of nonbank lenders. You can view and download the Excel file here. Or you can run the filters yourself at the Federal Election Commission’s website. (See the sidebar at the end of this press release for instructions.) All of the information is public and available to anyone with a browser and a little time.
Many of the donations are in uneven amounts and many repeat donations were made at irregular intervals – as if created by a random-number generator. This becomes apparent when the data is sorted by donor and date in Excel.
In 2019-2020 alone, Rocket Companies employees (including those of Quicken Loans) made 11,005 distinct contributions to a handful of political action committees. Guaranteed Rate employees made 4,819; Caliber Home Loans employees, 4,719; loanDepot employees, 4,103; Fairway employees, 2,430; and UWM employees, a “mere” 648 for the period.
There are many open questions here. Were employees reimbursed or able to expense these contributions? Were employees pressured into making them? We’re employees aware of the contributions made in their name? Was PPP money used in any way to make these donations?
…current anti-appraiser narrative being embraced by key public servants…Although cause and effect is notoriously difficult to prove, some of this money may have been used to buy influence and promote the current anti-appraiser narrative being embraced by key public servants in the executive and legislative branches.
The largely unregulated nonbank lenders have never minced words on their frustration with human appraisers. They have every interest in increasing their production velocity by marginalizing the sloth-like homo sapiens involved in the collateral valuation process.
Executives like Brian Covey, vice president of regional production for loanDepot, have voiced the industry’s collective frustration with the inability of appraisers to keep pace with the volume these largely online lenders are capable of generating (with risk exposure to the U.S. taxpayer through Fannie, Freddie and the FHA). It’s a world in which there’s no clear line between the private sector and the government.
“The vision that hipsters will someday be able to apply for and instantly obtain federally backed mortgages from their smartphones at single-location coffee houses and urban gastro-pubs is the holy grail,” said appraiser-author Jeremy Bagott. “Human appraisers are a big impediment to that vision.”
Another big question is to what extent, if at all, companies like loanDepot, Guaranteed Rate, Fairway Independent Mortgage, Caliber Home Loans, New American Funding and United Wholesale Mortgage through their powerful trade group, the Community Home Lenders Association, are donating to think tanks and funding quasi-scientific research and public relations campaigns that discredit appraisers.
These tens of thousands of small-dollar donations should be investigated for veracity and to determine whether the employees who made them were pressured in any way, as should many of the current phantom narratives that shoot the messenger – the nation’s 80,000 independent appraisers – and threaten to introduce new risk into the system.
To see how employees of the nonbanks are sending cash to political action committees, go to the Federal Election Commission website at www.fec.gov. Click on “Campaign Finance Data” on the top menu bar. Then click on “Look up contributions from specific individuals.” Be sure to “X” out of the default date range and select “2021-2022,” then go into “More” under the “Report Time Period” drop-down filter and select, for example, “2019-2020” or any other date range. You may have to tinker with it a little. Under “Employer,” enter the name of the mortgage lender you wish to research, for example, “Quicken Loans” or “Loan Depot” (“loanDepot” is two words in the database). You can download the returned data as an Excel spreadsheet and then filter it in different ways.
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I haven’t read the story but nonbanks are the devil. Period.
Basically they are looking to get rid of us & making donations to political groups
In that case, we all need to boycott them. If they want to get rid of us, we need to get rid of them.
Being a realist, I’m afraid boycotting is exactly what they would like. Now they would have justification to move on with another process that would eliminate the appraiser. Once that happens it is all over.
SEND IT TO Fox News, CNN, MSN, and hurry!
Why do appraisers as a group need to do to stop all of this? A union seems to be to late or out of the question.
Would you volunteer if you found one? Or join your states coalition? Will you look up the word MISMO and read what their objectives are?
Jeremy’s been researching causation for many of the ills appraisers face, at least as long as I have been an Appraisal Union Executive. (Yes. Unions for appraisers exist). He’s even published a book on related topics.
The politics of being an active appraiser advocate will surprise you. So many of our own peers are the same people supporting detrimental policies.
It’s not hopeless but for every 5 steps forward take four more backward.
My best advise!!! Wake up and smell the Roses. Appraisers must state in bold that the intended user is the lender (90% of the time) and that the intended use is COLLATERAL VERIFICATION so user can determine risk associated with loan which is MORE than value, but to include the quality and condition of the collateral. WHY?? Because an old worn out house may have value, but also may a short remaining life of short life items (you know what those are) and there is greater risk associated with properties which may need these items addressed in the short term. Word it anyway you want, but emphasize risk is more than value. Good luck!
The evidence that Jeremy Baggot has gathered could well be the “smoking gun” that extinguishes these efforts by the VC backed tech companies to eliminate human appraisers.
As I think that the bundling & funneling of large political donations thru the names of your thousands of employees is illegal.
As more info. comes to light, I’m becoming somewhat more confident that these corrupt schemes will ultimately FAIL.
Here’s one piece of info. worth noting: Sandra Thompson is the ACTING Director of the FHFA (And she has been 100% behind the actions to label appraisers as biased and to implement fintech’s push for the new hybrid/desktop appraisals).
Ms. Thompson’s Senate hearing to be approved as Director was in Jan. 2022, but as far as I know, NO VOTE has yet been held. If we act quickly… and get useful info. into the right hands (probably the GOP), then the appraisal community may be able to forestall the bifurcation train.
Very interesting. New American Funding gave a webinar titled “Property Valuation, Appraisal Bias, & Black Homeownership” July 15, 2021 with Andre Perry and Freddie Mac. The webinar description was “The New American Dream & Freddie Mac webinar series continues to discuss the challenges to increase Black Homeownership and potential solutions.” They promoted the idea of the racist and biased appraiser, biased sales comparison approach and biased credit score formulas against black people. They supported AVMs and changing appraisal methods and credit score formulas. New American Funding has been using race, racism and bias to promote their business. Notes and video here. https://mary–cummins.blogspot.com/2021/07/
Wow, Mary, that is a very detailed website. Lots there. GIGO! brilliant. Proposals for color coded credit scoring? That figures.
Dr. Andre Perry is himself a racist. His book is well worth reading so that one understands where he is coming from and how his own life events have colored his thinking.
He’s also a bit of a hypocrite. That becomes apparent in the first chapter. Lastly, he doesn’t know squat about appraising… or impartial scientific studies.
This is powerful stuff and sounds like it can be the smoking gun. But what do we do with it? We have no lobbying group and certainly not the ear of any politician. We can ill afford to let this revelation (not that we weren’t thinking it) slip through our fingers. The appraisal industry must organize a strategy and pursue this for all it is worth. As with anything in law it starts with that one loose string that eventually unravels everything. Perhaps the Attorney General for each state might be a good place to start and/or the politicians who were involved with the original issues mentioned. If we spent our time doing that rather than pontificating about our accomplishments and telling everyone else, why they suck as an appraiser we might be able to actually accomplish something and keep our industry alive.
I don’t doubt this one bit !
Interesting timing that Fannie is turning appraisers into State boards for alleged violations of CU. These are for performing non-delinquent loans in good standing. Appraisers are being turned in because the final value estimate differed from the ‘their’ CU findings, nothing more. (Voice of the Appraiser Podcast/Phil Crawford)
It is not a coincidence that there is a multi-front attack on the fee appraiser the last 5 years. As mentioned in the article, the problem is the SPEED in which they can facilitate loans. They just want them completed faster. The current flavor is known as racial bias. Their answer through GSE and banking regulation is enforcement and compliance using AVM’s, hybrid products, and BPO’s. Additional pressure and disciplinary action from state boards will force more appraisers from the industry. One can’t help but wonder is this the ultimate goal. Remember, the Appraisal Foundation, NAR and the NHBA are not our friends. They want us gone as well.
“Another nail in the coffin”
There’s no such thing as violations of CU.
You are right though re turning appraisers in based on the false and misleading claims that appraisal “reviews” suggest USPAP violations MAY exist. CU is NOT a valid USPAP SR3 compliant real estate appraisal review. So every time they claim a referral “for possible investigation at the discretion of the State Board” they are flat out LYING.
No recognized, credible appraisal reviews take place on these repurchase letters and related complaints. They are instead screened by bottom of the barrel incompetents at FNMA basing decisions on CU scores and a defective risk rating system.
CU IS being used exactly as we feared it would be used when it was created. Back then, FNMAs Big Lie was that it wasn’t an appraisal OR appraiser reviewing tool.
Plenty of old articles on this blog circa 2014-2015 on the topic.
Thanks to the King Cobra
So it’s all about speed ?? Then why are AMC’s spending 7-10 days “shopping” fees and then expecting a 48 hour turn time from the Independent Appraiser who’s TIME and RESOURCES have been sucked out of the system and handed to the AMC’s??? By the $Millions!! In 2007 the Regulators at AARO.net were increasing requirements to become an Appraiser because their were too many puppy mill trainees. Enter HVCC and Dudd-Fwank and the Appraiser business model is turned into indentured servitude. Get rid of the useless middle man, simplify the appraisal process, have the Regulators do their jobs and hold Appraisers Accountable for their work (without witch hunting), give me back my “business” and turn times will not be your problem. Why does everyone in the RE biz freak out if an Appraiser is allowed to make a $$$ ?? The Cobra Effect is in full attack mode
How are you making the leap from an employee personal political contributions to claiming the employer is trying to discredit appraisers?
I don’t believe many are left that realize: government is constantly growing at a snowballing pace with less and less accountability; their power is increasingly centralized and they know how to gradually weed out those not in lockstep with their devious ultimate goals; their level of corruption bred by this power is more than keeping pace; they know how to control most of the media to assist them in creating pictures of deception; and that we are well beyond the point of no return. Yes, there will be push back here and there and a few small short lived victories for appraisers. However, while we celebrate any resistance successes – the government (and entities under their control) continue to advance their progress toward absolute power. Those in power allow the little victories as diversions/smoke screens to cover their relentlessness. A relatable example is the level of surveillance. Early on the traffic cameras were claimed to be for traffic control. How often have you sat a traffic signaled intersection for a few minutes with no other traffic around. If the cameras were truly for traffic flow, the light cycle would change by traffic levels picked up by the camera. I have read often over the years statements like “we would never infringe peoples rights with such and such surveillance method” while in truth the government was taking surveillance to levels we couldn’t imagine; but the naïve public mistakenly believed the lie. And the government can count on the sheeples short attention spans. American citizens might be surprised what they don’t know now and what dreadfulness is coming. Oh, someone please tell the AMC’s that they will not be needed much longer either. Just like the Borg “resistance is futile”. I won’t DRONE on any further, but will say – when will the population at large get their heads out their ——-, I mean sand.
Very well written Jeremy. The appraiser is the only part banks don’t have complete control over. And I also think there is a lot of profit to be made in the imaging data collected by these 3rd party scanning tools. All that demographical data, the politicians must be salivating.
There is a real possibility, that in the near future property values may be history, possibly replaced by a property scoring system related to amenities, features, etc. It appears that quickly headed to the USA is the social credit scoring (SCS) system for each person; similar to what China has now. Major high tech companies are already positioning to provide the services and people tracking systems for this. Many movers/shakers (M/S) behind the scenes want to do away with private property ownership. At which point could it be that, instead of buying a property, one will be assigned to you based on your SCS. They may even provide a choice of properties – but that might be reserved to those with higher credit scores. Appraisers, AMC’s and even banking/lenders are no longer needed. Orwellian, non-elected committees will make the rules regarding how the SCS is implemented and how it relates to your housing options. Lets call it the Internal Orwellian Housing Placement Service (IHOPS). In this scenario some of us will be lucky if we are even placed into ghettos or tent cities. I have read several times authors quoting a M/S stating something similar to “You Will Own Nothing, and You Will Be Happy” (I do not know who made the statement)). Maybe this is just Science Fiction – but then often Science Fiction later in time becomes fact. Let’s hope this scenario remains in the Science Fiction realm.
Legends of the fall. Remember, they can only get as far as we let them. They sold it you bought it, but it’s never to late to return your subscription. Welcome to 2022. “We’re currently looking for new conspiracy theories, since all the old ones came true.”
“Another big question is to what extent ” Put in 2 hours today on that single question, could not come up with much, I’m stumped… But when there is money to be made, money starts trading hands.
Ask yourself, would these conditions be present if we had a monetary system tied to gold and silver where lenders had to shoulder the entirety of risk management without any taxpayer assurance? Article 1 Section X. This is a recurring question which is why I tend to skip it and go straight to effective solution proposals. Without the write off would donations have occurred? If pandering could not shift liability to taxpayers, would such efforts to shift regulatory structure exist in the same form? Doubtful. We may not understand exactly what we are observing but make no doubt, it is a product of the creature from jekyll island.
No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.
Jeremy, Thanks for your time and this interesting article. WHY does this not get real – NEWS attention?