For the Record
Al de Molina, the chief executive of GMAC Inc., weighed in on the brouhaha that erupted last week when the company told analysts it would no longer provide separate quarterly or annual reports for its Residential Capital LLC mortgage subsidiary.
"I think people are making a mountain out of a molehill," Molina said in an interview. "This is not an attempt to give less information and there's no intent to keep anything from anybody. In fact, [bondholders] may get more information, not less."
The Securities and Exchange Commission does not require GMAC to file full financial statements because ResCap has just 300 investors holding roughly $4 billion of debt. Though GMAC expects to save costs by reducing its filings, it said bondholders will still be able to view ResCap's full financial statements through a secure Web site. The filings just will not have a section with management's discussion or analysis of the business.
De Molina said his tenure as chief financial officer at Bank of America Corp., a post he left in 2006, was marked by "transparency and disclosure." He said he expects to continue that brand of openness at GMAC, which is laboring to transform itself into one of the nation's largest depositories despite staggering losses that have prompted a string of federal bailouts.
"It's kind of a low bar. All you have to do is be truthful and [analysts will] like you," he said.
Larry Fink's Take
What caused the subprime crisis?
Laurence D. Fink, the chairman and CEO of BlackRock Inc., says that ultimately it was the public policy that evolved in the late '90s to promote homeownership without the necessary controls to ensure good underwriting.
"Public policy caused the issue," said Fink, who pioneered mortgage securitization in the 1980s at First Boston Corp. "The ingenuity of the Street took it to an extreme."
Speaking at an event Tuesday in New York, Fink also said he does not see any quick or easy solution to the problems posed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
"There's still a great uncertainty" about the economy, and Fannie and Freddie are playing a major role now in bolstering the mortgage market, he said.
"Fannie and Freddie represent 85% of all newly originated mortgages this year — 85%!" he said. Of course, the Federal Reserve Board "is buying them all — that's the problem."
By aggressively modifying mortgages, Fannie and Freddie are helping to stabilize home prices, Fink said. "Homes decline in value when people don't live there."
As prices improve, banks will benefit by being able to undo writedowns they had to take on the value of their loans, Fink said. "We're seeing huge stability," he said. "Some banks told me they are going to have to reassess those loans upward."
Responding to criticism that carpetbagging appraisers are flubbing valuations and obstructing a recovery in home prices, a trade group based in Wexford, Pa., said its members send appraisers on road trips that average 13 miles in urban and suburban areas.
The Title/Appraisal Vendor Management Association, which represents companies that distribute appraisal assignments on behalf of lenders, said Wednesday that it is launching a quarterly survey of driving distances.
Real estate agents and mortgage brokers have claimed that appraisal management companies are hiring inexperienced appraisers who produce faulty, lowball valuations. (A protocol Fannie and Freddie adopted in May to protect appraisers from pressure by lenders to inflate valuations has steered additional business toward outside companies that assign the work.)
"Appraisers sometimes travel outside of their own neighborhood — but that doesn't mean outside of their sphere of professional expertise," Steve Haslam, an industry executive, said in a news release.
Haslam said AMCs make assignments based in part on how often and how recently an appraiser has done work in a particular area.