The subprime market's problems be damned. That appears to be the view of senior management at Austin, Tex.-based Empire Funding, a company whose loan volume has skyrocketed since 1996 and where-with typical Texas bravado-executives say there is no reason the good times cannot keep rolling.

As part of his strategy, Gary W. Bradford, the company's president and chief executive, is trying to shed Wall Street's view that Empire is indeed just another subprime lender. In its latest report, Empire, a privately held firm founded in 1987, says it is "one of the nation's leading consumer finance companies, specializing in the origination, purchasing, servicing, and securitization of consumer loans secured primarily by second liens on real property."

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