The mortgage banking industry wants to win your trust back. Lenders and servicers realize their reputation is tainted but they say they are determined to reverse that.
That was a common theme among lenders who spoke during the first day of the Mortgage Bankers Association, or MBA, annual meeting in Chicago. Many in the crowd of more than 2,000, mostly mortgage and real estate professionals, cheered and applauded the pledges.
But the crowd of more than 200 protesters who stood outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel, where the conference is taking place, didn't seem to care about the lenders' good intentions, as they carried signs with photos of bank executives that read: "They get rich. We get foreclosed." The group is a coalition of community and labor organizations that organized hundreds of protesters, sending them to various locations across the city. They say they were not part of the Occupy Wall Street marches that are taking place nationwide.
The MBA president had warned attendees earlier in the day that protesters were expected to show up at the hotel. He asked them not to engage and stay clear of the protest.
But it appears that a handful of protesters made their way into the hotel and, posing as conference attendees, they popped some not-so-easy-to-answer questions.
"Knowing what your company has done ... how can you show your face in this city and how do you intend to fix the colossal damage you have done to our city, our family and our economy?" asked a man who walked up to the microphone when one of the sessions was open to questions from the audience. The question was directed at Michael Heid, president of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. Heid told the man, who did not identify himself, that the lender is working to find more alternatives to foreclosure and is making an effort to work with borrowers on solutions such as loan modifications.
A few minutes later, a couple of more questions for Heid: "Where's your moral compass?" asked a woman in the audience. "How do you sleep at night?"
Heid answered. "We've made mistakes. Over time, we have gotten more right than wrong. ... Those that remain in the industry clearly understand we have an obligation" to the country.
Heid earlier had told the audience that lenders should stop playing defense and "prove to (borrowers) that we can win back their trust."
As with many other lenders in the country, Heid has a long way to go.
As for the people who people who asked the questions, I don't expect to see them in any sessions at the conference today. The man who asked the first question was discreetly escorted out of the hotel yesterday (I'm not sure anyone noticed it but I happened to be standing near the door when he was invited to leave). I asked security what was going on and was told the man and the other woman were with a group of protesters who "managed to get in and get badges."
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