MBA Chief Kempner to Step Down

The Mortgage Bankers Association said late Tuesday that current president and CEO Jonathan Kempner had resigned; news of his departure comes as the industry lobbying group is having to ramp up its efforts on Capitol Hill, as well as defend itself from critics that claim its membership helped fuel the credit crisis now gripping the world’s financial markets. The trade organization did not provide a reason for Kempner’s departure, but said that the resignation will become effective at the end of this year. The group also said it had tapped from MBA chairman John Courson as his replacement; Courson will assume a role of COO at the industry lobbying group effective August 1, as part of a transition plan. Kempner spent seven years at the helm of the mortgage banking industry lobbying group, and helped the MBA recover from the effects of the last housing slump; that downturn had drained the group’s operating reserves, and trimmed membership levels substantially. The MBA now is faced with very similar challenges; membership is off 17 percent amid an industry downturn that shows no near-term signs of abating. The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that the trade organization is likely to post its first annual loss since Kempner came on board in 2008. Part of the reason for that may be due to his own $1.2 million compensation package, according to the story. An ill-fated bet on real estate is a likely contributor, too. The trade group closed a $100 million deal to purchase its own building earlier this year, a money-losing move that began as an ironic joke among those in the industry, but has since become a sore subject — and a likely drain on reserves, although MBA representatives have said the building is performing as expected. The group has not been able to find a single tenant to occupy its new building and help offset ownership costs; worse, the MBA is still having to pay on its lease at the former headquarters location as well. To offset losses that are expected to grow into 2009, the group is said to be considering a hike of its dues for member firms now profiting from the surge in borrower defaults, a move that nearly all of HW’s sources in the industry told us would be less than welcome. While the MBA didn’t give a reason for Kempner’s departure, the Wall Street Journal suggested that he had reached a point of exhaustion in trying to manage the group’s troubles, citing two close sources. Kempner told the Journal that he has no immediate career plans. For more information, visit Disclosure: Housing Wire is a member of the Mortgage Bankers Association.

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