Posturing for Progress

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Feature When asked about that process, Alan Hochheiser, a managing partner with Ohio-based Weltman, Weinberg & Reis Co. and chair of the Legislative Issues and Solutions Committee at the American Legal & Financial Network (ALFN), said, "A working partnership between professionals, their associations, and the government is valuable to everyone. Professional members bring a deep knowledge base, our association broadens the platform, and officials get information designed to help them govern better." Hochheiser continued, "Members have firsthand knowledge of what is occurring in every jurisdiction in the country, and that insight goes a long way in partnering with legislators and other industry groups in helping to shape the future of the mortgage industry." Lobbying and Advocacy Are Different W hen it comes to determining what is lobbying and what is advocacy, confusion reigns. Simply speaking to a legislator does not automatically qualify as "lobbying" and will not require you to register as a lobbyist. Lobbying is a specifically defined activity, according to federal tax law and the Lobbying Disclosure Act. Variation exists between the two definitions and their scope, but for most organizations or individuals, it is more important to understand what lobbying is not. Activities ranging from voter education about a candidate's position to informing policymakers about broad social issues important to your organization fall under advocacy—an unrestricted activity at all levels including federal, state, and local. Lobbying and advocacy also take different forms when dealing with different branches of the government. Lobbying contacts in Congress and the executive branch offer substantial differences when targeting influential people. For example, when targeting the executive branch, one of the 19 exempt categories is "grassroots lobbying efforts," which includes encouraging private citizens to contact officials regarding specific issues. Included in the executive branch are agency heads, assistant secretaries, deputy assistant secretaries, and general counsels of agencies. For the real estate, mortgage banking, and financial services industries, this is an important aspect to understand considering the regulatory and oversight powers of federal agencies and regulators with a footprint in the life of today's typical mortgage. "Working directly with pertinent agencies and regulators is vital to breaking down, analyzing, and sharing educational information regarding the ways in which new rules and regulations apply to an association's members," said Adam Silver, a managing partner with Georgia-based default services firm McCalla Raymer and chair of the ALFN Federal Consumer Lending Statutes Committee. Silver emphasizes the important work that issue-specific committees do in providing background and expert analysis to agencies during the rulemaking process. Silver said, "By having industry experts first create a clear understanding of the effects of new regulations, we provide a vehicle for industry participants to voice well-informed and constructive comments to the appropriate agencies and regulators. These comments often open up an important and conciliatory dialogue between the affected groups and the regulators promulgating the rules and regulations." The list of agencies and regulators important to both committees' work is expansive— an indication of the continued importance of the mortgage banking industry as the economic recovery builds steam. The list includes the Department of Treasury; Federal Housing Finance Agency and its charges, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; Department of Housing and Urban Development; Federal Housing Administration; Office of the Comptroller of the Currency; Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation; Securities and Exchange Commission; and the newest addition: the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Big Bucks. Big Bang? F or industry practitioners, what is most important is that your professional or industry association hears you. At a time of new mortgage origination rules coming online, imminent GSE reform, a rebounding housing market, and private capital returning to the residential mortgage-backed securities market, it is imperative that mortgage banking professionals have a clear endpoint for where a sustainable housing economy will stand when it's fully recovered and equipped with new guidelines and federal housing finance tools. Otherwise, we'll spend millions to get nowhere—or worse, back to where we were. 28 | The M Report

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