Robert Couch, a former general counsel of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and a former president of the Government National Mortgage Association, has started a company to help banks dispose of real estate assets.

ARK Real Estate Strategies in Birmingham, Ala., has $100 million under management for seven bank clients including the $137 billion-asset Regions Financial Corp. in Birmingham, Ala., and the $1.9 billion-asset New South Federal Savings Bank in Irondale, Ala. (Couch is a former president and chief executive of New South.)

The new venture is raising money to invest in distressed assets as well.

"We think there's going to be an opportunity in this market for some time," Couch said in an interview Friday. "We're hoping we find a floor [for housing prices] while recognizing foreclosures are still coming in."

He said his stints at HUD and Ginnie Mae give him "an interesting perspective" on the market, though he emphasized that his government role "has nothing to do with" the business.

"Ours is a fairly simple strategy of buy low, sell high," he said.

Couch also works as a lawyer in the Birmingham office of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP.

He is a past chairman of the Mortgage Bankers Association and a former chief financial officer of First Commercial Bancshares in Birmingham.

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