(Editor's note: Monday and Tuesday of this week, HW will be providing periodic live updates on the sights, sounds, and sentiments at the ASF 2008 conference in Las Vegas.) Some odd-n-ends from Monday, as day two of ASF 2008 looms. We'll start with some pertinent quotes from the experts:
  • Jon Bottorff, managing director at HSBC Finance, during a session on mortgage origination, on walk-aways: "We've attracted a lot of borrowers who are really renters ... It is disheartening as a servicer to see the willingness [to walk away] ... [borrowers] simply don't care." Bottorff wants to see the mortgage industry "get back to the classic homeowner" who has a vested interest in staying in their home.
  • Peter DiMartino, senior managing director at Bear Stearns & Co.: "The one thing we need to get past is the monoline issue." DiMartino said that the crisis affecting bond insurers is the single largest issue keeping investor confidence at bay.
  • Merrill Lynch senior director Sarbashis Ghosh, in a session on RMBS research: "It's not a subprime problem, it's a housing leverage problem ... we have people with a mortgage who simply cannot afford to make their payments." Ghosh suggested the solution was "to address the question of leverage," and went so far as to suggest something like a food stamp program to help borrowers with payments.
  • Glenn Schultz, managing director at Wachovia Securities: "[We] need more of a heart-of-the-problem solution ... any [government-led] solution will not be able to be put into place in time to help troubled borrowers."
By far, the most frequented exhibitor booth at the show has been the one hosted by Wilmington Finance. The reason? Guitar Hero 3. Whoever planned the booth had the brilliant idea of offering conference goers the opportunity to be virtual rock stars -- and, as anyone who has ever met any of Wall Street's finest knows, the chance to be bigger than life is proving to be an irresistable draw. I spent a few minutes watching one player absolutely butcher the Rolling Stones' "Paint it Black." The industry dinner on Monday night was well-planned and even more expertly executed. A special private show by the Blue Man Group -- not to mention free-flowing alcohol -- had nearly every attendee planted in their seat for at least two hours. The BMG show itself? I was very pleasantly surprised. It's worth noting, BTW, that the rock-star motif continued onward, with the BMG show focusing on "what it takes to be a rock star." (Here's hoping whoever tried to be the next Keith Richards at the Wilmington Finance booth earlier in the day was playing close attention.)