Doris J. Dungey; Blogger Chronicled Mortgage Crisis

Doris J. Dungey wrote as Tanta for the blog Calculated Risk.
Doris J. Dungey wrote as Tanta for the blog Calculated Risk. (Family Photo - Family Photo)
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By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 4, 2008

Doris J. Dungey, 47, an influential blogger who under the pseudonym Tanta wrote about the failing U.S. mortgage industry, died of ovarian cancer Nov. 30 at Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus. She previously lived in Upper Marlboro.

Ms. Dungey wrote for Calculated Risk, a finance and economics blog that became a favorite of skeptics of the overheated housing loan business largely because of her knowledge and wit.

Among her fans was Paul Krugman, a Nobel laureate, New York Times columnist and Princeton University economist, who quoted her "muddled metaphor index" in his blog. Analysts at the Federal Reserve also footnoted one of her posts in the Fed paper "Understanding the Securitization of Subprime Mortgage Credit."

Ms. Dungey wrote a series of lengthy articles about mortgage origination, negative amortization and automated underwriting systems, which she collected into "The Compleat UberNerd," a site-within-a-site at the blog.

The Wall Street Journal called her work "one of the smartest and most influential blogs on the mortgage meltdown and resulting financial crisis," and more than 1,000 of her readers indicated that her literary allusions and clear prose illuminated some of the most arcane corners of the industry.

In one of her last posts, dated Sept. 21, she wrote: "What I really really like is the idea of subjecting CEOs to the same petty humiliation everyone else gets treated to.

"I suggest that for every separate asset these CEOs sell to the government, they be required to write a Hardship Letter over a 1010 warning (that's a reference to the statute forbidding lying in order to get a loan) explaining why they acquired or originated this asset to begin with, what's really wrong with it in detail, what they have learned from this experience, and what steps they are taking to make sure it never happens again."

Before she retired because of her illness, she worked for Mortgage Dynamics of Falls Church on its securitization due diligence team, visiting loan originators and investors and reviewing thousands of mortgage files in the late 1990s.

She worked for E*Trade Capital Markets in Arlington County from 2003 to 2005. After her cancer was diagnosed in 2006, she worked from home for Mortgage Dynamics, doing contract review and technical writing, said her sister, Cathy Stickelmaier of Springboro, Ohio.

Ms. Dungey, under the childhood nickname Tanta, began commenting two years ago on the Calculated Risk blog, taking issue with some of the posts written by owner Bill McBride. Her witty and knowledgeable comments led McBride to offer her the right to post under a pseudonym.

Ms. Dungey was born in Oxnard, Calif., and grew up in Bloomington-Normal, Ill. She graduated from Illinois State University and received a master's degree from the University of Wisconsin.

She taught at Wisconsin until 1989, when she moved back to central Illinois, where she wrote a training manual for a Bloomington rape crisis center.

She became a technical writer for Champion Federal Savings and Loan Association and wrote its processing, underwriting and closing manual. She began training loan originators and support staff in the early 1990s.

When Champion was bought by First of America, Ms. Dungey took a job in 1994 in Kalamazoo, Mich., as a product manager. Two years later, she moved to Des Moines to work for Amerus Mortgage. She left Amerus in 1998 to move to the Washington area.

In addition to her sister, survivors include her parents, Byron and Eilleen Dungey of Carlock, Ill.

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