The Denver Post

Trump’s FHA choice has helped lenders fight it

- By Joe Light — The Washington Post

For the past eight years, Brian Montgomery has helped mortgage lenders fight penalties sought by the Federal Housing Administra­tion. Now he’s President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the agency.

Montgomery, who headed the FHA from 2005 to 2009, would play a key role in mortgage-insurance decisions that could mean billions of dollars for clients of The Collingwoo­d Group, the Washington consulting firm that he co-founded.

The potential for conflicts of interest is putting Montgomery in the awkward position of possibly recusing himself from specific matters involving some of the country’s top mortgage lenders.

The FHA, which is part of the Department of Housing and Urban Developmen­t, sells insurance that repays lenders if a borrower defaults. The protection allows borrowers to get mortgages with down payments of little as 3.5 percent and credit scores as low as 580 on a scale of 350 to 850, making the program a favorite among first-time home buyers. The agency also can penalize lenders for mistakes in FHA-backed loans that lead to insurance payouts.

Collingwoo­d is known in the housing-finance industry as a specialist in helping firms navigate FHA-related penalties and lawsuits. Montgomery’s former clients include Wells Fargo, US Bancorp, Nationstar Mortgage Holdings and Caliber Home Loans.

He is also on the board of Radian Group, a private mortgage insurer that competes with the FHA and could profit along with other rivals if the Trump administra­tion shrinks the agency’s footprint. Montgomery has said he would leave Radian’s board if confirmed by the Senate.

“Montgomery is somebody who has spent several years thinking about these issues from the perspectiv­e of the aggrieved, regulated party,’’ said Jeff Hauser, executive director of the Revolving Door Project. “The idea that he can totally swing his head back and think of these issues solely from the public interest is to expect him to be a Superman.’’

In an email, Montgomery said that he filed an ethics agreement spelling out the conflicts and would follow all government requiremen­ts. “At this stage in my life I was offered the opportunit­y to return to public service where I believe I can make a positive difference,” Montgomery wrote.

Trump picks Simons for FTC.

The White House said Thursday that President Donald Trump intends to nominate Joseph Simons, a longtime expert in competitio­n law, to head the Federal Trade Commission, America’s top privacy and consumer protection agency.

The announceme­nt ends months of speculatio­n over who might lead the FTC and its efforts to regulate perceived monopolies and unfair business practices, at a time when many policymake­rs have raised questions about the growing consolidat­ion of industries ranging from retail to media.

Simons currently serves as a co-chair of the antitrust practice at the law firm Paul Weiss. His previous clients include many tech or tech-related firms, such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Sharp and Sony. He also has represente­d companies in the defense, music, software, telecom and transporta­tion industries.

Simons served under George W. Bush as the director of the FTC’s competitio­n bureau.

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