Senate Banking Bill on GSE Reform Nears Completion

On February 12, National Mortgage News published an article titled Senate Banking GSE Reform Bill Nears Completion.

Senate Banking GSE Reform Bill Nears Completion

Senate Banking Committee leaders are expected to soon unveil their highly anticipated bipartisan bill to overhaul the mortgage finance market as the window for moving legislation this year continues to narrow.

Chairman Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, the panel’s ranking member, are likely to release details of their bill within the next two weeks, according to several sources tracking the negotiations.

“Indications are that they are very close to sharing legislation with everyone, if not introducing it entirely,” said James Ballentine, executive vice president of congressional relations and political affairs at the American Bankers Association.

But it’s clear the lawmakers are also running out of time to make significant legislative progress on their bill.

Johnson and Crapo began serious work on the issue in the fall, when they began holding a series of hearings and meetings with industry stakeholders. Behind the scenes, activity has spiked during the past two months as committee staff have worked nights and weekends to draft text and reach a final deal.

“The clock is ticking and every day that goes by makes it all the more difficult,” said Edward Mills, a policy analyst at FBR Capital Markets, adding that “end of March would be the latest” to release a bill for it to gain any traction.

The stakes for the committee and the financial services industry are high. If the lawmakers fail to reach an agreement on a reform plan by spring, it’s likely to put the issue on hold for at least a year and could set back efforts to overhaul Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac indefinitely.

Still, it appears for now that Johnson and Crapo are making progress. The two lawmakers issued a rare joint statement last week, reiterating that the issue remains the “top priority” for the committee.

“With the hearing and information-gathering stage behind us, our hard work continues as we dive deep into the drafting and negotiating phase of housing finance reform,” Johnson and Crapo said, adding that they “recognize that we must build a broad bipartisan consensus for an agreement to have a chance at becoming law.”

While it provided little in the way of detail on what to expect or when to expect it, observers said the tone of the statement bodes well for the ongoing efforts.

“The fact that it was a joint statement is significant, and that they actually mentioned pen on paper is significant,” said Brandon Barford, a partner at Beacon Policy Advisors.

But actual details of the bill have been closely guarded, which may speak to the trust cultivated between the two lawmakers and a genuine interest in producing legislation.

“I believe that the negotiating process is being tightly controlled, and that means folks are serious about getting something done,” Barford added. “If you start seeing sections or whole titles floating around town, then someone is negotiating in bad faith.”

Johnson and Crapo are expected to draw on a bipartisan framework to unwind Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac introduced by Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Mark Warner, D-Va., last summer. That bill created an explicit backstop for the housing market, but required private lenders to hold a 10% loss position on any loans guaranteed by the government.

But Johnson and Crapo are likely to put their own touches on the legislation, including providing more detail on how to structure the multifamily housing market and the transition to a new system. They are also looking at the design and role of Corker-Warner’s proposed housing regulator, the Federal Mortgage Insurance Corp.

Many observers think Johnson and Crapo could also deviate from the 10% first-loss requirement, though how far is unclear. Corker has previously vowed to fight efforts to reduce the level of capital required of private firms but Johnson and Crapo are said to want more flexibility during economic downturns.

The banking panel leaders will also have to curry support from other members of the committee—particularly the six Democrats on the committee who did not sign on to the original Corker-Warner plan—as they continue to negotiate with each other.

Johnson and Crapo need strong support for the bill during any committee vote if the legislation has a chance of making it to the Senate floor. Part of the balancing act Johnson and Crapo face is keeping the original bipartisan coalition of 12 lawmakers that supported Corker-Warner on board, while attracting additional panel members.

Legislation is “possible, as long as they don’t do what happens far too often—we get pulled apart based on the extremes of either party,” said David Stevens, president and chief executive of the Mortgage Bankers Association. “In our view, this committee has an obligation to do something substantive. It’s hard work and it won’t happen if they each go to their corners.”

That helps to explain why Johnson and Crapo have taken so long to unveil a bill, observers said. It’s difficult to craft legislation that addresses the complexities of housing reform and brings in additional members, said Dwight Fettig, former staff director for Johnson and a partner at Porterfield, Lowenthal, Fettig & Sears.

“It’s more important for the future success of housing finance reform to take the time necessary to get a strong vote out of the committee,” he said.

But pressure on the banking panel is mounting from the White House and others to get an agreement in place before Congress turns its focus to the midterm elections—particularly after the committee blew past an earlier self-imposed deadline to reach an agreement by the end of 2013.

President Obama asked Congress during his State of the Union address to send him housing reform legislation, and Michael Stegman, a top advisor at the Treasury Department, reiterated the administration’s commitment to mortgage finance reform in remarks last month. Gene Sperling, director of the White House’s National Economic Council, said last week that time is of the essence to get a deal done.

“All of us … are making it understood that everyone needs to feel a sense of urgency in moving forward quickly while there is still a window for bipartisan progress in 2014,” he told The Wall Street Journal.

The Treasury Department is engaged with the Banking Committee on the legislation, and some administration officials, including Sperling and Shaun Donovan, secretary for Housing and Urban Development, are said to have begun reaching out to the remaining Democrats on the panel.

“If we don’t get something done this year,” Donovan said during a Politico event on Wednesday, “we could end up in a place where reform is much harder to get to.”

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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: www.safeguardproperties.com.

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CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

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.

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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.

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CHIEF INFORMATION OFFICER

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”.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.