Mortgage Group's Next Leader Brings All Kinds of Experience

When it comes to living up to their talk on campaign finance reform, John McCain edges out Barack Obama, eight watchdog groups report.
When it comes to living up to their talk on campaign finance reform, John McCain edges out Barack Obama, eight watchdog groups report. (By Win Mcnamee -- Getty Images)
By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The man who will soon head the Mortgage Bankers Association is not just a veteran of the mortgage business. He is also a person who has felt the industry's pain. Personally.

John A. Courson, who will take over as president of the association next year -- lately a million-dollar-a-year job -- went out of business as a mortgage banker in early 2007.

"John did close his company on February 26, 2007," said Cheryl Crispen, the association's spokeswoman. "It was a cash-flow and capital situation. . . . There was a lack of cash."

Courson, 66, is well liked among his peers. He has been active in the association for 20 years, including one year as its elected chairman. He was a mortgage banker for more than 40 years.

He is also a pioneer of sorts. His California-based Central Pacific Mortgage went belly-up like hundreds of other mortgage lenders, though months before last year's subprime mortgage squeeze wreaked havoc on his industry.

Unlike many of the lenders that failed later, in fact, Courson's Central Pacific did not go under because of subprime-lending problems. Those risky sorts of loans were only a sliver of Courson's business.

Courson also has personal experience with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, an agency he will have to deal with extensively in his new position. In 2001, he signed a consent agreement with the department to refund to customers extra fees he charged them to run their credit reports.

"In lieu of litigating the matter with HUD," Crispen said, Courson agreed to pay the government $50,000 to resolve the issue and to put aside another $35,000 for consumer refunds.

Lots of other mortgage lenders were accused of the same sort of thing at the time, Crispen said. Getting a whack from the government, apparently, is also a way to bond with his members.

A McCain Bundler

By one estimate, 22 of Sen. John McCain's "bundlers" -- the people who raise tons of money for his presidential campaign -- are federally registered lobbyists.

One of those mega-fundraisers has an additional distinction: He made a cameo appearance in a congressional investigation of now-jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Cassidy & Associates lobbyist Juan Carlos Benitez appeared in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's 2006 staff report on Abramoff's White House activities, according to my colleague James V. Grimaldi.

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