Space Invaders

Though Quicken Loans is best known as the largest online mortgage lender, the company attributes its recent expansion into private-label originations to its expertise as the fourth-largest Federal Housing Administration lender.

"This theme kept coming up that community banks and credit unions wanted a wider product offering including FHA," said Jay Farner, the president of Quicken Loans Mortgage Services. The Livonia, Mich., company announced the creation of his unit last month.

Quicken Loans' move comes just three months after PHH Corp., the largest private-label originator — best known for originating mortgages for Charles Schwab Corp. and Merrill Lynch — expanded into correspondent and wholesale lending.

Jerome Selitto, PHH's president and chief executive, was magnanimous about the new competitor in his company's core business.

"It's a natural for them to look at this market," Selitto said. "That's the prudent thing to do considering we're expecting a 30% to 35% decline in mortgage originations this year."

A key difference between the two companies is how they control mortgage servicing rights.

Selitto said that for the most part, clients prohibit PHH, of Mount Laurel, N.J., from selling servicing.

"You aren't going to originate the loan and then sell the servicing rights off to one of their competitors," he said.

But Farner emphasized that most community banks and credit unions are not actively building a servicing portfolio.

"We may transfer the servicing and sell it, or may hold the servicing, depending on the client or the loan," he said.

Wall St., Off Broadway

The year is 1999. Dana Dunnigan, a well-known, right-wing pundit has just been abducted by a small band of thugs that go by the name "The Market Complex."

And so begins "Cake," a new play by Felipe Ossa, which premieres Saturday in New York as part of the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, a downtown theater festival.

Ossa, the emerging markets editor of Asset Securitization Report, which is owned by American Banker publisher SourceMedia Inc., said the play explores many genres, but is "high farce at times."

The title is derived from protagonist Dunnigan's recently published book entitled, "Let Them Eat Cake: How the Free Market Can Spread Prosperity to Everyone." The book, "a real rabble rouser," becomes a "lightening rod for the left," Ossa said.

Though Ossa wouldn't divulge too much of the plot, he said the point of the kidnapping is to use Dunnigan's financial expertise "for something explosive."

"The whole thing is saturated with market speak," he said. However, "there's nothing about it that people won't understand if you know nothing about economics."

Ossa has been working on the play on and off for about the past six years. The success he had with last year's "Monetizing Emma" — which was also performed as part of the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity and has since been picked up by an Indiana theater that is taking the play to Chicago — spurred him to revisit "Cake."

Ossa gets many of his ideas from his work as a financial reporter; "Monetizing Emma" dealt with the securitization of a 15-year-old girl's future earnings power.

"Cake" deals with both financial and political themes. Ossa said he hopes to make the audience question "the difference between the far left and the far right."

"You hear about so many people that just lurch from one to another," he said. "Is it that these political ideas really mean something or that people just need to feel passionate about something?"

"Cake" runs through June 27 at The Green Room Theatre at the Theatres at 45 Bleecker Street.

Quotable …

"I used to say that all the notes were in the box next to the Ark of the Covenant."

James Kowalski Jr., an attorney in Jacksonville, Fla., who represents borrowers, describing lenders' inability to document that they own the mortgages they try to foreclose on.

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