HUD Prepared Remarks at MBA 100th Annual Conference

On October 28, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan at the Mortgage Bankers Association’s 100th Annual Conference in Washington, DC.

Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan at the Mortgage Bankers Association’s 100th Annual Conference

As prepared for delivery

Thank you, Dave (Stevens), for that very kind introduction and for your leadership.

In light of recent events here in Washington, I can’t imagine that you miss your time in government too much. But, we miss you at HUD and it’s great to see you today.

Please allow me to also thank all of you with the Mortgage Bankers Association.

You play a critically important role in our economy, our nation and our future.

And it’s truly an honor to be here with you this morning to kick off your Annual Conference, especially as you celebrate this milestone anniversary.

I know that the members of this organization have seen some extraordinary things over the past 100 years. But it’s hard to imagine any period quite like the last five.

Fighting Our Way Back

Back in the fall of 2008, we saw Lehman Brothers collapse.  Every day, there was a new rumor that more trouble was on the way.  It felt like the entire financial system was close to caving.

At the time, I was a Commissioner for Mayor Bloomberg in New York City.  As many of you know, he has a bullpen setup, with no walls, so that his leadership team can easily interact and collaborate together.

As part of this setup, there is a giant TV screen, which has a ticker listing updates from across the city, like the number of complaints that have been answered and the number of potholes that have been filled.

And on the day the House of Representatives took its initial vote to rescue the financial industry, I vividly remember all of us gathering around the TV to watch.  When it became clear that the measure had failed, Mayor Bloomberg uttered four words that I’ll never forget: “the world is ending.”

Indeed, the events of that time led to the worst economic crisis that most of us have ever seen.  When President Obama took office in 2009, the housing market was in free-fall.

Home prices had fallen nearly 20 percent from the year before: the largest one-year drop ever measured. Roughly three million borrowers were seriously delinquent.  Construction projects and plans came to a halt – causing the industry to lose 100,000 jobs a month.

Across the board, we saw dramatic declines. And of course, these drops represented more than shifting numbers on a spreadsheet. They represented people’s lives, savings and struggles.

So when the President and I took office, we set in place a number of priorities which still guide us today.

One, to provide immediate assistance to those in need.  Two, to work with public and private sector partners to strengthen the housing market and help fuel an overall economic recovery. And three, to ensure a crisis of this magnitude never happens again.

Let me start with the first goal: providing immediate assistance to those in need.  When I last spoke at your Annual Conference in 2011, I told you about a number of initiatives we undertook to help families and heal the market.

Although the crisis has eased, I’m proud to report we keep pushing for progress.

Back then, I told you that we had helped 5.1 million responsible families stay in their homes through mortgage modifications. Today, that number is over 7 million.

Back then, we had just launched HARP 2.0. In the time since, the number of homeowners who have refinanced through the effort has soared from 400,000 to 2.8 million as of July.  I also mentioned our Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which addresses the foreclosed and abandoned properties that often hold back communities trying to rebuild.

Today, I’m proud to say that $7 billion has been allocated to neighborhoods in all 50 states to refurbish these properties, turning blight into progress.  In fact, in more than 70% of these neighborhoods, vacancies are down and home prices are up compared to similar communities.

And during the most trying times, the Federal Housing Administration stepped up to keep capital flowing and stabilize the market.  Of course, taking on such a big role carried costs, and FHA recently took a mandatory appropriation of $1.7 billion to close out Fiscal Year 2013.

To be clear: this doesn’t reflect the MMI Fund’s current health.  This was an accounting transfer that has not yet caught up with reality.  It’s based on the housing market more than a year ago, and doesn’t reflect policy changes we’ve made since then.

In fact, FHA has strengthened underwriting standards and its portfolio, resulting in dramatic improvements, even since this time last year.

A 15 percent drop in delinquency rates. A20 percent drop in foreclosures starts.

A 26 percent improvement on recoveries. And, more than a 90 percent improvement in Early Payment Defaults.

FHA has nearly $50 billion in liquid assets, including more than $17 billion added in the Fiscal Year that just ended.  And it continues to provide a wide-variety of qualified buyers with the opportunity to become homeowners.

Through these efforts and more, we are sending a clear message: that even as the financial crisis becomes more distant in our nation’s rearview mirror, the Obama Administration’s commitment to our recovery will never waver.

And in the larger picture, these actions, combined with leadership like yours, has helped write quite a comeback story since 2008.  Sales are up. Prices are up.  Construction is up. Optimism is up.  In short, so many critical trends are going in a positive direction.

I thank you for the role you played in this growth. You have had to be creative and resilient in the face of incredible challenges – and I’m sure will continue to be with those that lie ahead.

Through it all, you have more than earned the right to highlight your strength with your conference theme: 100 Years Strong.”  And we are determined to work with you to ensure that the best years are ahead.

To view the remarks in their entirety, please click here.

About Safeguard 
Safeguard Properties is the largest mortgage field services company in the U.S. Founded in 1990 by Robert Klein and based in Valley View, Ohio, the company inspects and maintains defaulted and foreclosed properties for mortgage servicers, lenders,  and other financial institutions. Safeguard employs approximately 1,700 people, in addition to a network of thousands of contractors nationally. Website:



Alan Jaffa

Alan Jaffa is the chief executive officer for Safeguard, steering the company as the mortgage field services industry leader. He also serves on the board of advisors for SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Alan joined Safeguard in 1995, learning the business from the ground up. He was promoted to chief operating officer in 2002, and was named CEO in May 2010. His hands-on experience has given him unique insights as a leader to innovate, improve and strengthen Safeguard’s processes to assure that the company adheres to the highest standards of quality and customer service.

Under Alan’s leadership, Safeguard has grown significantly with strategies that have included new and expanded services, technology investments that deliver higher quality and greater efficiency to clients, and strategic acquisitions. He takes a team approach to process improvement, involving staff at all levels of the organization to address issues, brainstorm solutions, and identify new and better ways to serve clients.

In 2008, Alan was recognized by Crain’s Cleveland Business in its annual “40-Under-40” profile of young leaders. He also was named a NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® finalist in 2013.


Chief Operating Officer

Michael Greenbaum

Michael Greenbaum is the chief operating officer for Safeguard. Mike has been instrumental in aligning operations to become more efficient, effective, and compliant with our ever-changing industry requirements. Mike has a proven track record of excellence, partnership and collaboration at Safeguard. Under Mike’s leadership, all operational departments of Safeguard have reviewed, updated and enhanced their business processes to maximize efficiency and improve quality control.

Mike joined Safeguard in July 2010 as vice president of REO and has continued to take on additional duties and responsibilities within the organization, including the role of vice president of operations in 2013 and then COO in 2015.

Mike built his business career in supply-chain management, operations, finance and marketing. He has held senior management and executive positions with Erico, a manufacturing company in Solon, Ohio; Accel, Inc., a packaging company in Lewis Center, Ohio; and McMaster-Carr, an industrial supply company in Aurora, Ohio.

Before entering the business world, Mike served in the U.S. Army, Ordinance Branch, and specialized in supply chain management. He is a distinguished graduate of West Point (U.S. Military Academy), where he majored in quantitative economics.



George Mehok

George Mehok is the chief information officer for Safeguard. He is responsible for all strategic technology decisions, new systems deployments and data center operations supporting a national network of more than 10,000 mobile workers.

George has more than 20 years of leadership experience dedicated to high-growth companies in the mobile telecommunications and financial services industries, spanning startups to global industry leaders.

George played a senior role in the formation of Verizon Wireless, leading the IT product development and strategic planning team. He led the integration planning for the Verizon merger including: GTE, Vodafone-AirTouch, Bell Atlantic Mobile and PrimeCo.

As chief information officer at Revol Wireless, a VC-backed CDMA wireless communications network operator, George’s team implemented an integrated technology infrastructure and award-winning business intelligence platform.

George holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from Eastern Michigan University and an M.B.A. from The Ohio State University. He is a board member of Akron University’s School of Business Center for Information Technology, in addition to an advisory board member for OHTec.

In 2013, George won the Crain’s Cleveland Business CIO of the Year award for his team’s work in completing a major acquisition and technology transformation at Safeguard. In 2015, George’s team was recognized by InformationWeek’s annual Elite 100 ranking of the most innovative U.S.-based users of business technology. The mobile inspection technology developed at Safeguard was selected as InformationWeek’s “One of the top 20 ideas to steal in 2015”.


General Counsel and Executive Vice President

Linda Erkkila, Esq.

Linda Erkkila is the general counsel and executive vice president for Safeguard, with oversight responsibilities for the legal, human resources, training, compliance and audit departments. Linda’s broad scope of oversight covers regulatory issues that impact Safeguard’s operations, pro-active risk mitigation, enterprise strategic planning, human capital and training initiatives, compliance and audit services, litigation and claims management, and counsel related to mergers, acquisition and joint ventures.

Linda’s oversight of the legal department along with multiple compliance and human capital focused departments assures that Safeguard’s strategic initiatives align with its resources, leverage opportunities across the company, and contemplate compliance mandates. Her practice spans almost 20 years, and Linda’s experience, both as outside and in-house counsel, covers a wide range of corporate matters, including regulatory disclosure, corporate governance compliance, risk assessment, executive compensation, litigation management, and merger and acquisition activity. Her experience at a former Fortune 500 financial institution during the subprime crisis helped develop Linda’s pro-active approach to change management during periods of heightened regulatory scrutiny.

Linda previously served as vice president and attorney for National City Corporation, as securities and corporate governance counsel for Agilysys Inc., and as an associate at Thompson Hine LLP. She earned her JD at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Linda holds a degree in economics from Miami University and an MBA. In 2017, Linda was named as both a “Woman of Influence” by HousingWire and as a “Leading Lady” by MReport.


Chief Financial Officer

Joe Iafigliola

Joe Iafigliola is the Chief Financial Officer for Safeguard. Joe is responsible for the Control, Quality Assurance, Business Development, Accounting & Information Security departments, and is a Managing Director of SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Joe has been in a wide variety of roles in finance, supply chain management, information systems development, and sales and marketing. His career includes senior positions with McMaster-Carr Supply Company, Newell/Rubbermaid, and Procter and Gamble.

Joe has an MBA from The Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA), and holds a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University’s Honors Accounting program.


AVP, Operations

Jennifer Jozity

Jennifer Jozity is the assistant vice president of operations, overseeing inspections, REO and property preservation for Safeguard. Jen ensures quality work is performed in the field and internally, to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations. Jen has demonstrated the ability to deliver consistent results in order audit and order management.  She will build upon these strengths in order to deliver this level of excellence in both REO and property preservation operations.

Jen joined Safeguard in 1997 and was promoted to director of inspections operations in 2009 and assistant vice president of inspections operations in 2012.

She graduated from Cleveland State University with a degree in business.


AVP, Finance

Jennifer Anspach

Jennifer Anspach is the assistant vice president of finance for Safeguard. She is responsible for the company’s national workforce of approximately 1,000 employees. She manages recruitment strategies, employee relations, training, personnel policies, retention, payroll and benefits programs. Additionally, Jennifer has oversight of the accounts receivable and loss functions formerly within the accounting department.

Jennifer joined the company in April 2009 as a manager of accounting and finance and a year later was promoted to director. She was named AVP of human capital in 2014. Prior to joining Safeguard, she held several management positions at OfficeMax and InkStop in both operations and finance.

Jennifer is a graduate of Youngstown State University. She was named a Crain’s Cleveland Business Archer Award finalist for HR Executive of the Year in 2017.


AVP, Application Architecture

Rick Moran

Rick Moran is the assistant vice president of application architecture for Safeguard. Rick is responsible for evolving the Safeguard IT systems. He leads the design of Safeguard’s enterprise application architecture. This includes Safeguard’s real-time integration with other systems, vendors and clients; the future upgrade roadmap for systems; and standards designed to meet availability, security, performance and goals.

Rick has been with Safeguard since 2011. During that time, he has led the system upgrades necessary to support Safeguard’s growth. In addition, Rick’s team has designed and implemented several innovative systems.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Rick was director of enterprise architecture at Revol Wireless, a privately held CDMA Wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana, and operated his own consulting firm providing services to the manufacturing, telecommunications, and energy sectors.


AVP, Technology Infrastructure and Cloud Services

Steve Machovina

Steve Machovina is the assistant vice president of technology infrastructure and cloud services for Safeguard. He is responsible for the overall management and design of Safeguard’s hybrid cloud infrastructure. He manages all technology engineering staff who support data centers, telecommunications, network, servers, storage, service monitoring, and disaster recovery.

Steve joined Safeguard in November 2013 as director of information technology operations.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was vice president of information technology at Revol Wireless, a privately held wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana. He also held management positions with Northcoast PCS and Corecomm Communications, and spent nine years as a Coast Guard officer and pilot.

Steve holds a BBA in management information systems from Kent State University in Ohio and an MBA from Wayne State University in Michigan.


AVP, Business Development

Tim Rath

Tim Rath is the AVP of business development for Safeguard. He is responsible for developing innovative growth strategies for Safeguard and developing and overseeing potential partnerships, mergers and acquisitions.

Tim joined Safeguard in 2011 as project director and has filled numerous roles within Vendor Management, most recently serving as director of vendor management, a role he assumed in 2011.

Prior to Safeguard, Tim worked as director of supply chain at PartsSource Inc. in Aurora, Ohio, a provider of medical replacement parts, procurement solutions and healthcare supply chain management technology services. He also has held sales positions with Rexel, ComDoc, and Pier Associates, all based in Ohio.

Tim holds a degree in marketing and sales from The University of Akron in Akron, Ohio. He also earned his FAA Certified Commercial UAS (Drone) Pilot license in 2017.


Assistant Vice president of Application Development

Steve Goberish

Steve Goberish, is the assistant vice president of application development for Safeguard. He is responsible for the maintenance and evolution of Safeguard’s vendor systems ensuring high-availability, security and scalability while advancing the vendor products’ capabilities and enhancing the vendor experience.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was a senior technical architect and development manager at First American Title Insurance, a publicly held title insurance provider based in southern California, in addition to managing and developing applications in multiple sectors from insurance to VOIP.

Steve has a bachelor’s degree from Kent State University in Ohio.