When we first started reporting about the HVCC, we were surprised by how many appraisers had no idea what it was. Various organizations had issued press releases, but there had been no effort at a grass roots campaign to educate appraisers en masse and demand change, until the inaugural issue of this newspaper. We then kicked off a public "change campaign" after getting all the requisite pieces in place in Washington.
That campaign produced unprecedented results. In less than 48 hours, we had over 31,000 people sign on and make their voice heard. Over 11,400 added their own comments to our pre-written letter. (pq)
To avoid "we didn't get your e-mail" issues, we sent OFHEO, Fannie, Freddie, and the New York Attorney General's office each a FedEx package with a CD containing all the letters and comments, conveniently organized as both Word documents, and as a searchable database.
And since paper is still the legal gold standard, we printed and delivered to the four parties a massive shipment of 127,169 pages of letters, all in time for the April 30th deadline. (See the photo above showing only a small part of the shipment.)
WE'RE NOT ALONE
According to the Wall Street Journal, Cuomo's office issued a statement that "the overwhelming response to the agreement has been a positive one," but the letters submitted to the GSEs and OFHEO by us, by the Mortgage Banker's Association, the Appraisal Institute, and numerous others seemed to have the opposite tone. (For a list of links to official letters, go to www.appraisalpress.com/hvcc_responses.)
In our letter, like some of the others, our lawyers refer to rights granted under the Administrative Procedures Act, or APA. Under the APA, there are procedures - much like "sunshine laws" - which apply to fair notice and commentary prior to implementation of any regulation.
Whether or not the HVCC is part of an agreement between corporations, it's a regulatory rule endorsed by OFHEO and as such falls under the APA. Our team also requested unfettered access to the previously undisclosed documents related to the original formation of the agreement, and the HVCC.
In reading the commentary submitted by other groups, it's clear that while there is common opposition to the HVCC as a mechanism and to its consumer harms, there is wide divergence on specific issues.
Not surprisingly, while the letter from us and from the Appraisal Institute expressed concern regarding the dominant role of AMCs in the proposed landscape, the letters from entities such as the MBA, Zaio, and others, didn't have the same objections. Given that many MBA members own AMCs, and that Zaio is an AMC and AVM provider, that's not surprising. And they frankly shouldn't be faulted by appraisers for having different objectives. They have a right to look out for their interests, just like we have a right to do the same. And we will.
The "new" aspect of that to most appraisers however, judging from the comments we've received, is the process of setting aside differences temporarily while there's a common risk to be dealt with first. The old adage, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" comes to mind here. Frankly, we're content to work in conjunction with anyone to help stop the HVCC dead in its tracks. Then, and only then, should we concentrate on sorting out the differences as a new regulation is drafted, or as the need for another regulation is rendered moot by legislation currently before Congress.
SENDING IN THE PROFESSIONALS
Grassroots activism is necessary, but it doesn't change policy without having the help of those connected "inside the beltway". That's why we hired DC-based lawyers, lobbyists, and PR firms to get the right doors opened and the right people listening to your concerns.
Our position statement and accompanying cover letter, click here, were drafted and sent to each of the parties by our Washington law firm. We're also actively working with key members of Congress, the administration, and with Attorney General Cuomo's office, to deal with the immediate issues of the HVCC .
Trust us, after 31,000 objections in 48 hours, the parties involved know who you are now. They know you can be politically vocal and immediately mobilized, and that you have allies willing to spend money to ensure that you have a seat at the table as new deals are crafted.
Of course, the letters and the analysis you see here that we sent to OFHEO are only a small part of the opening salvo. Real policy gets made outside the spotlight. We'll keep you in the loop, and at the table, as more develops. Meanwhile, feel free to let us know what you think.