Correcting the Record – MHI, Jennison and Gooch

There are those who believe that certain MHProNews articles and my editorials or analysis on the “MHI Housing Alert” sent out by MHI’s Lesli Gooch under Richard ‘Dick’ Jennison’s authority are driven by a desire to do a frontal attack on the association or large companies. 

There are those who think that MHI is just shadow dancing in its claims to advance DTS, or to get more lending into the industry, as well as those who doubt that MHI seriously wants to see HR 650/S 682 enacted into law.

Let’s tackle those and other, recently raised and related perceptions.

We’ll start by saying that skimming this article will result in more misunderstandings, rather than clarity. Whatever you skim, might be the key points you need to understand what, in fact, has been and more recently is taking place.

You care enough about this issue to be reading this, so kindly care enough – to Please – Do Not Skim This Article.

Superficiality is the curse of the modern world.
― Matthew Kelly

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Image credit – collage of Industry Association logos by MHProNews, each logo is the property of their respective organization, and is used here under Fair Use guidelines.

1) We know from a variety of sources that MHI as an organization – as well as finance-focused operations from across the MH spectrum, which are often members of MHI – are making good faith efforts to get the GSEs to better understand MH and to do chattel (personal property, home only) loans on manufactured homes. For example…

There are

  • detailed disclosures by MH lenders on chattel loan performance, and there are:
  • Trips to communities,
  • Trips to retail centers,
  • Trips to factories,

and other efforts that are all geared toward gaining the buy-in of the GSEs for Duty to Serve (DTS for manufactured housing), and/or to obtain the support of FHFA with the GSEs on DTS, etc.. These facts and insights come from lenders, finance pros, people “in the room,” and others.

  1. Those facts in no way militates the efforts of MHARR or others toward accomplishing the goal of making DTS for MH personal property lending a reality.

2a) So to say that MHI has no serious interest in getting DTS into reality would fly in the face of evidence to the contrary.

2b) That said, is MHI doing the best possible job on that issue?  That’s a different question, and a fair one. For example, why has no one from MHI contacted Titus Dare to see what they might learn from him on DTS?  What causes opportunities by MHI staff to learn from others to be missed?

2c) Mindful of #3 below, why doesn’t MHI ask for transparency in releasing the minutes to its private meetings with the FHFA? That transparency, the Masthead  believes, would be good for all in the industry. Further, FHFA ought to release minutes from other private meetings — for example, those with consumer groups.

2d) The more industry leaders and pros know the full picture, the more likely we are going to come with a happy outcome on DTS. Transparency pays.

2e) That the Masthead  isn’t anti-MHI or anti-large operation ought to be self-evident to someone who actually cares about the facts and are fully informed.  Just this month, support for MHI is suggested by the Jayar Daily Congressional testimony article on the home page this month. More to the point, MHProNews has years of history sharing positive insights on and about MHI, and the same can be said about other associations.  

2f) Properly understood, MHProNews’ calling attention to issues has, as its implied aim, for MH Pros to be goal and solution oriented.  A critical analysis is done to help MHI and all other associations, too, not to harm, and thus to help the industry advance, too.  A close reading – not skimming! – will make that evident.

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Image credit, Shutterstock, FreeVector.

3) There are reasons why MHARR and MHI often don’t get along – and we won’t go into detail on that today – we just mention that each organization has their suspicions of the other. That reality is entirely apart from any editorializing we or others may or may not do – that MHI-MHARR tension existed decades before MHProNews published its first edition in October 2009. Our writing about it – or not – makes the tension no more or less real.

  1. We will note for today that it’s in the industry’s best interest when MHI and MHARR are on the same
    don-glisson-jr-triad-financial-service-manufactured-housing-loans-posted-masthead-blog-mhpronews-

    Triad Financial Services Chairman, Don Glisson, Jr.  For Another Cup of Coffee with…Don Glisson Jr, click here or the photo above.

    page; we agree on this point with Don Glisson, Jr. Because for over 17 years, the only time the industry gets what it wants in D.C. is when the two associations – plus state associations – are working in concert. We’ve made that point numerous times in the past.

  1. In a perfect world, both national associations and their respective interests would be at the same table. At various times, MHI and MHARR have in fact been at the same table. Yes, it’s idealistic, but it has been done before, so there are good reasons to think it’s achievable now.  Industry pros like Don Glisson, Jr. have at various times tried to bridge that gap.
  1. Further, while it’s idealistic to think that small, medium and large organizations – and consumers, as well as businesses – can and should all come together to work for the common good, that, too, is attainable. The MH Industry will never hit it’s potential until we are seen as being very pro consumer, which the vast majority of MH Pros already are!
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Bob Crawford – left. Frank Rolfe, right. Still from MHProNews video on this page.

Fair and Balanced…

  1. This month, we have two articles that present differing viewpoints. One is an interview with Frank Rolfe, that defends MHI. Interestingly, Rolfe doesn’t defend Jennison or Gooch, at least not by name. Let me underscore again:Literally no one has given us a cogent defense for the “Housing Alert” or other items linked above. No one.  By contrast, we’ve had numbers of people who think MHProNews has done the industry a favor by bringing these issues to light. There are also those who have chided, or politely suggested, that our coverage on this topic helps no one. We’ve also had those who have asked us to clarify — are we attacking MHI’s very existence?  Are we attacking big businesses? We strive to keep all of these perspectives in mind, and they are in fact one of several good reasons for this in-depth column.  We want to be responsive to our readers and industry leaders, just as we want MHI to be responsive, too.

7a) Readers should consider the fact that the CSPAN video was first brought to our attention by a highly placed pro at a large industry operation. As in many of the issues we tackle, they arise from input or grow from insights from readers and industry professionals who are in the know.  We don’t just start sounding off on a topic, we seek to understand it first.

7b) For those who mistakenly think we are attacking a large firm by attacking MHI, that too is clearly contradicted by the full context of how this issue has been brought to the industry and public’s attention. The video we produced, linked here, includes an article that very clearly calls on the media to correct the record of their previously errant reporting about MH industry lending and related issues. A close view of the video will reveal that Richard Cordray offers a surprisingly helpful defense for the industry’s lending, which The Seattle Times/Buzz Feed and others grossly misrepresented.

7c) Before we published our critiques of Jennison and Gooch and their now infamous “housing alert,” they had ample opportunity to correct the record themselves. They failed to do so.  We routinely ask for input, prior to publishing; if a source fails to respond, isn’t that on them?  Did they think their controversial alert and apparent errors would be overlooked, forgotten, ignored, what?

  1. We also published an article by Bob Crawford, calling for a new independent post-production association. It includes a video where he talks about that topic. He rates MHI’s effectiveness in their work on behalf of independent retail and community operators, of which he is one.
  1. Those two viewpoints – Crawford or Rolfe’s – don’t exhaust such a topic. We’ll gladly publish others on such issues. Once more, We Provide, You Decide. © Let me observe anew that the best way for MHI – or any association – to avoid such issues about division within a membership is to make sure they are, in fact, listening to and serving the broadest possible interests of the industry.

9a) At the core are issues of credibility and accountability.  Part of the challenge for manufactured housing is that too many outside of our industry don’t believe what the industry says.  That’s an educational issue, but it also means that MHI’s communications should always be unquestionably accurate.  When that fails, then doesn’t that cast a question mark on other things MHI says, or the industry attempts to do, in D.C. and beyond? 

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The infamous April MHI Housing Alert isn’t the only such issue, but the housing alert is one that is easy to review and thus easy to see analyze what took place. Its pretty black and white.

10) That, too, is a reason why editorially we believe that both MHARR and MHI serve important and useful purposes. Ideally, they will work together as much as possible. Stating the obvious often brings clarity. Talk of a third or fourth national association would be at zero if there was a wide perception that all needs and perspectives in MH are being addressed.

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JD Harper, photo credit, Linkedin.

10a) Some will recall that Arkansas’s JD Harper floated a balloon a few years ago for a bridging voice between MHI and MHARR that could advance the MH cause in D.C.

10b) All such efforts ought to send a message. And that message is? Clearly, not everyone believes their needs or interests are being heard! If they were, there would not be MHI members who verbally and in writing communicate their concerns to MHProNews about how national issues are being (mis)handled.

10c) We don’t take on that role lightly. We ask questions, gain insights, do research before we publish on a sensitive topic. So a careful read, starting from the headline on the MHProNews home page says that it’s Staffers who are questioned, and that’s a clear distinction between staff and the organization as a whole.

  1. Look at Frank Rolfe’s comments, part of which is almost humorous (ironic…). He says that people should join MHI to find out what they are doing. The irony is, until Dick Jennison pulled the plug – first on the Journal, months later with MHProNews – there was a level of MHI addressing the industry in its own voice on the pages of MHProNews.

11a) It was Jennison who ended that communication to the industry, at his request, long before we raised issues about his leadership at MHI.  So for those who allege that Jennison is only reacting to what we’ve published, sorry, but that’s hogwash.  For whatever reason, Jennison cut publishing ties to the Journal first, and later with us.  It’s all on him.

  1. There are some long-term MHI members – some of whom no longer attend meetings – that say, ‘We don’t always know why MHI does 
    MHI's New CEO, Dick Jennison

    This was one of the photos taken by MHProNews, a behind-the-camera, behind-the-scenes effort some years ago to get MHI and MHARR to work more closely together. Richard Dick Jennison, left, M. Mark Weiss, right.

    what it does.’ Isn’t that an obvious internal communications issue? Who besides MHI caused that? It wasn’t the Masthead, so isn’t that clearly an internal issue for MHI to address? Even their so-called Week in Review isn’t actually weekly. WiR is published roughly 20+ times a year, in the last few years that Jennison has taken over the helm at MHI.  Does anyone sense a pattern there in Arlington, where Jennison’s MHI office is?

12a) Among the callers yesterday was an industry voice that said, we (MHProNews) should be encouraging more attendance at MHI meetings. Fair topic, which at times past, we’ve done just that; so once more, a complete and balanced-by-the-facts viewpoint is needed. We often talk about MHI meetings, before during and after an event, as regular readers well know. That said, the other perspective might be: Why don’t more pros want to come to MHI meetings?  Apathy happens for a reason.  Isn’t apathy a kind of vote of disinterest or lack of confidence that the effort is worth the time and cost?

  1. We publish MHARR news unedited, and we did the same for MHI for years. Let me state for the record: I can send a request to MHARR for comments or follow up or to address a concern.  I’ll get a prompt answer from MHARR. As our email records and text messages would show, we can address MHI staff on questions, and they routinely won’t answer. Why not? Jennison? Some other reason?  

13a) That’s the opposite of how it was between MHI and MHProNews in years gone by. We used to get prompt responses from Jennison early in his tenure, and also from Thayer Long before Dick came on board.  It wasn’t MHProNews that changed efforts at good communications to none, so why did someone at MHI change that past dynamic between us, as the leading MH publisher, and staff at the Arlington-based association?  Who was the whiz kid who decided it was smart to ignore the industry’s trade media?

14) We still do articles in the Daily Business News that report on both associations. Then there are editorials, some by myself or others, on issues relating to MHI or MHARR. Again, We Provide, You Decide. ©

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Are opportunities to get more lending into MH being missed or slowed by mishandling by key MHI staffers?  These are issues regardless if MHProNews chose to report on them or not. Some are thanking us for covering these matters; others think they should be kept out of the public view.  But when off-the-radar efforts fail, the next step is to go public with industry members. This analysis and those linked provide more insights on finance-related topics.

Bottom Lines?

  1. Calling out realities at MHI ought to be seen as MHProNews doing MHI and its leadership a real, sincere favor. Otherwise, issues will fester until there is a rupture.
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    MHI logo is their trademark, and is used here for editorial purposes only. MHProNews Spotlight, credit, MHProNews.

    15a) Some members get great attention, while other members feel ignored. That’s a fact we hear from members often.

  2. Calling on MHI’s top staff to speak to members in a candid, forthright manner is Ethics 101. I make no apology for holding them accountable — that’s a valid role of objective trade media. Before this issue burst on the scenes, MHI Chair Tim Williams defended that value of MHProNews precisely for our independent perspective. 

16a) If we, as an industry, are to showcase our amazing value – if MH, as an industry, is to be seen as the caring professionals most of us strive to be – then collectively, the MH Industry has to be willing to look at allegations like the Jennison/Gooch issue for what they are — more on that, linked here.

  1. That we are pro-MH or pro-association ought not to be doubted. That we are only for small businesses would be a wrong interpretation of reality, as noted above and by the fact that we serve a wide spectrum of MH-related firms and firms in MHI, MHARR, state associations or those in no association, too.  
  1. As further proof of our years of balance on MHProNews, we’ve done interviews with mom-and-pop,
  • consultants,
  • large, medium and small operations,
  • and those in between. We’ve published hundreds and thousands of statements and accounts we don’t necessarily agree with, but it was what the speaker said.  Some industry pros completely get that we are doing what other trade publications in other industries do; some just don’t see that yet. 
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Mostly stills from videos in our industry-leading Inside MH Video series, published on MHProNews and/or MHLivingNews, depending on the topic.  This is a cross section of operations from single location operations to the largest in MH. We strive to be balanced in our coverage and in our analysis.  We invite and publish other viewpoints.  What could be more fair than that?  Only those who skim or don’t read would accuse us of being unfair or unbalanced, or of attacking any size organization or association.  Accountability issues ought to be seen as pro-industry, not anti-industry.

Just page through the years of our A Cup of Coffee with…interview series as proof.

  1. As an example that MHProNews isn’t anti-big business (or business or organizations of any size), we’ve defended ELS when they were wrongfully attacked – and ELS, to my recollection, has never been a client of our firm at any time or level. We’ve defended Clayton and MH lending more than any other publisher anywhere in the past 18 months, and that took place prior to their being an advertiser – and it wasn’t the cause of their becoming an advertiser.  Publishing and marketing have an intersection, but they are two different things in trade publishing. We respect that line, and trust that our sponsors understand that point very well.
  1. The record reflects our independence and the record reflects we defend and promote the MH Industry far more than we criticize it.
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    Tim Williams, 21st Mortgage CEO and current MHI Chairman. Click his name to see the interview with Tim.

    Again, Tim Williams point above is spot on.

  1. We’ve criticized CFPB or HUD far more than we have George Allen, MHI, MHARR or anyone else.
  1. My 80 percent friend is not our 20 percent enemy. We may bridge the gap by calling people to account when necessary, but isn’t that an important and valid role of good trade media?
  1. So yes, this writer has editorialized why Gooch and Jennison should go, while not harboring any illusions that we can force that issue. Leadership will do what it wants, for whatever reasons they may have.  Nor will MHProNews plan to make this an eternal mission to write about them every day or week. That would get boring pretty quickly.

24) A tiny minority of what we publish has been about those two MH senior staff members, and a tiny minority of our MHI coverage has been a critical analysis. So the fact that it has raised so many eyebrows points to the fact that the issue is real and needs to be addressed, doesn’t it?!

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Optics and Perceptions 

  1. Writers are often reminded that numbers of people skim rather than actually read.  As a writer or publisher, we are not responsible for that reality. If someone or a number of others misread what is published, that’s solely on those doing the misreading.
  1. A careful reading of what we’ve published recently – or over the years, as well, plus behind-the-scenes efforts – ought to prove that we try to bridge gaps, not create them.
  1. But when a gap exists, it does no good to ignore or gloss over it. That’s not negative, that’s reality. We do the industry a favor when we spotlight an important issue that is going unaddressed, or when behind-the-scenes efforts have failed to produce a good outcome.
    gaps-method=credit-postedon-MHProNews

    We will look at the GAPS Method in the near future, as one of the tools to analyze the road blocks to MH advancement.

  1. By analogy, lancing a boil brings out puss and blood. It’s ugly. But once done properly, healing comes in its wake, and the lanced skin grows stronger, not weaker, as a result. Let’s ponder how that analogy applies to MH, or MHI.LancingTheBoil-drawceptioncredit-postedMHProNews-
  1. As a matter of record, we’ve made it clear that calling into question the judgment of Gooch and Jennison on this (or other?!) issues doesn’t represent an assault on MHI.  That’s a bad misread. Please see the linked article, and note the quotes from me. Beginning with the headline, the statements focus on performance by staff members, and how that impacts MHI and thus our industry, too. MHI is not being attacked.  MHI’s effectiveness has been questioned, at the staff and bottom-line-results levels.  Those are two entirely different things!
  1. As a matter of record, we’ve alleged there has been no good rationale to defend the infamous April Housing Alert from Jennison and Gooch, which sparked this recent controversy. It’s not the only reason, but given they had an opportunity to correct the record after we produced the video, and days before we published our first critique on this topic – isn’t it a plenty good reason to see them go? As an executive told MHProNews about the Gooch/Jennison Housing Alert off-the-record, there are no good reasons to deceive or mislead any member, much less in writing in the fashion that Gooch and Jennison advanced.AmericanBankingNews-KEY-MHI-StaffExcoriatedFailingMissionMembers-postedMastheadMHProNews-
  1. I’ve assured colleagues, clients and others who’ve contacted us that the Masthead  doesn’t plan to make a career out of writing or publishing on this one issue, as important as it is. Hindsight is 20/20 for us all. Time will tell if the leadership at MHI was correct in standing by Gooch and Jennison. But I’ll stress again, no one, NO ONE, has yet to offer a good explanation that justifies what that pair did. Isn’t that troubling?  
  1. Don’t shoot the messenger or the analyst – the focus ought to be on what Jennison and Gooch did and/or failed to do.  If someone wants to offer a defense of that memo, please bring it on – we routinely publish perspectives different than our own when they are well reasoned. Isn’t that fair enough?

33) In fact, we demonstrated in MHLivingNews.com, that the comments from Senators Donnelly, Corker and Richard Cordray could have been used by Gooch and Jennison to advance the cause of the pending legislation (HR 650/S 682). Why not let Gooch and Jennison explain why they missed that fact? Aren’t they the paid staffers? And why are they still missing that opportunity?  Ego?  Agenda?  Poor judgment?  What?

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Richard Cordray quotes and those from the report and video on this page, linked here. Why didn’t MHI’s Gooch and Jennison do a similar graphic, and use it to advance the MHI bill in Congress?  Or even easier, why didn’t MHI use this information already published, and simply ask us as an MHI member to share it?

  1. I’d further say that MHI – which means staff at MHI – missed an opportunity to draw positive attention to the industry on the occasion of the 40th Anniversary of HUD Code Manufactured Housing. Perhaps it’s still not too late? 

35) People make mistakes. I certainly do; all of us do. Do the mistakes made by Jennison and Gooch warrant replacing them? Do missed opportunities by MHI staffers to promote more financing or ease the CFPB rules which harm MH warrant a call for new faces in Arlington? One of our slogans for years has been:

We Provide, You Decide. ©

E Pluribis Unum – From the Many, One

  1. On our recent first-of-the-month Masthead, we published the graphic below/left. We believe in unity, but we see little or no value to a fictional or paper-only unity.
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There have for centuries been those who worked for unity, and towards division, in all nations and places.  See that Masthead, linked here.

37) I won’t dive into GAPS Analysis today, but will once more mention that as a pro-industry digital publisher, we can do critiques that are professional, rather than personal attacks in nature. See the last Masthead to better understand the topic.

  1. We hope enough readers of good will can step back and look at ALL the facts objectively, to see clearly anew we that we at MHProNews and on MHLivingNews are what we have always been. We are Pro-the-MH Industry. We are Pro-Associations at all levels; they’re all necessary! And when properly led, they have, and will do much good.

Conclusions

At the end of the day, we publish with the goal of solving or promoting solutions to real issues – to report Industry News, Tips and Views Pros Can Use©

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We bring plenty of attention to the good news in MH!

A wise man once said that if you have only positive, or only negative poles – in electricity – then you have no power. It takes reality – both positive and negative poles – to produce useful energy.

So when we spotlight a challenge, we hope, work and pray that through thoughtful consideration and action, that will lead to solving real problems.  Burying heads in the sands solves nothing.

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Some don’t want to hear what they might take to be bad news. Image Credits – Dilbert, WikiCommons

Our MH industry has a great story, we strive to tell those stories routinely on MHLivingNews and on MHProNews as well. We plan to stick with that effort until we close more gaps, and until the day comes when we pass on the baton to those who will follow in our wake.

In the meantime, the summary of the above is this.

We can critique MHI’s staff without desiring in any way its destruction.

We can critique MHI without attacking any member company of any size.

We want to see the industry advance, which means that MHI and others must grapple with reality, not sweep it under the rug.  

Our spotlighting issues is doing MHI and the industry a favor, so long as that favor is acted upon in a solution oriented vs. a sweep-it-under-the-rug-fashion. 

We believe the evidence shows that MHI and MHI members are making real efforts to do what they say they are trying to do on DTS.

That said, the questions include, could MHI be more effective at advancing more MH lending?  Are key MHI staff doing all that is possible to advance the association’s agenda? Are opportunities being missed?

Reports from MHI members to MHProNews and the word from others tell us that opportunities are being missed, and that more could have been done.  One example is word from those “in the room” is that the MLO rule change could have already been effected, with a different approach. 

MHI has an opportunity to turn the lemons of these issues into lemonade. The ball is in their court, right where it always has been. We’re bringing reports and analysis, it is up to others to act upon them, or not. We Provide, You Decide. ©  ##

LATonyKovach-QuestioningNYSAAteam-NewYorkHousingAssociation-MHProNews-com-PhotoCreditMarkSimon--250x167

Photo taken during New York Housing Association meeting; L. A. “Tony” Kovach questioning regulators.

By L. A. “Tony” Kovach.

Managing Member of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC.
Publisher of Industry leading 
MHLivingNews.com,MHProNews.com
and 
Inside MH video series.
MHI member, elected MHI Suppliers Division board member.
Consultant and service provider to the MH industry.

Office 863-213-4090.
Connect on LinkedIn –
https://www.linkedin.com/in/latonykovach

Publisher – MHLivingNews.com and MHProNews.com

It’s #1! Get our industry leading, free, Twice Weekly emailed news, tips updates (our emailed Newsletters look like this) – sign up free in seconds at MHProNews.com/Subscribe. 

L.A. 'Tony' Kovach, MHM - Publisher, Marketing Director and Industry Consultant
http://www.linkedin.com/in/latonykovach
Manufactured Home Marketing Sales Management trade journal
www.MHMarketingSalesManagement.com aka MHMSM.com aka MHProNews.com
tony@mhmsm.com
863-213-4090