Two affiliates of McLean Savings & Loan Association stunned workers this week by firing more than half of the staff as part of a shake-up which included the resignation of two top executives.
Those laid off included employes of UNIFED Mortgage Corp. and McLean Financial Services, a troubled Northern Virginia mortgage banking firm.
Frank M. Howard, McLean Financial's president, and its vice president, Thomas J. Leonard, resigned Wednesday. Neither could be reached for comment.
Howard and Leonard hold a minority interest in McLean Financial. The majority of the firm's stock is held by McLean Savings & Loan Association. John Harn II, president of McLean Savings and Loan, was out of town and unavailable for comment. Other company officials declined to comment on the shake-up.
The two mortgage banking firms dismissed more than 40 loan processors, account handlers and others, leaving the firms with only 32 employes, down from more than 180 workers last August.
The layoffs were necessary because the "anticipated growth" of the two companies "was greater than what actually occurred," said James D. Lobley, the new chief operating officer for the two firms. "The expectations were not met."
Lobley, formerly a vice president of DGA International, a consulting firm in Washington, declined to provide further details of the company's actions. He said the firings and resignations were not motivated by financial troubles at the two firms, and he denied that the firms might shut down. "The companies are still viable and we're moving forward. We are still taking loans," said Lobley. He said the firings will not affect loans now being processed.
The board's move shocked the fired employes, who were handed letters Wednesday morning informing them of the mass dismissal. The company then sent guards through the offices to escort the workers out of the McLean office building, according to one former employe who declined to give her name.
"We were given no warning, no severance pay, nothing," said the former worker.
McLean Financial, a once-active mortgage firm, has been hit with a least a dozen lawsuits in the past few years that accused the company of reneging on contracts to buy loans from other lenders and mortgage banking firms. Lobley said he did know the status of those suits, although some have been settled out of court.
In addition, several borrowers in the past year have complained that the company failed to honor the interest rates promised them at the time of their loan applications -- a charge levied against numerous Washington area lenders during a period of seesawing mortgage interest levels.
McLean Financial came into the public eye during the busy spring home buying and selling period this year and last with a hard-selling television commercial campaign starring Howard. Howard, often filmed lounging comfortably before a fireplace, appeared almost nightly on television in the area.
Howard was also the host of his own television talk show, "Today's Real Estate With Frank Howard." The chatty half-hour show ran each Sunday until its contract with WJLA expired last month