Senate Confirms Montgomery as New FHA Commissioner

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday voted to confirm Brian Montgomery as Federal Housing Administration commissioner, ending a long-delayed process that began last fall.

The final vote was 74-23 in favor of confirmation.

President Trump nominated Montgomery, who had previously served as FHA commissioner under the second President Bush from 2005 to 2009, for the post in September. At the time, Trump’s move was met with praise from the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage and wider lending communities, with National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association president Peter Bell lauding Montgomery’s “extraordinary competence in his management and oversight of the HECM reverse mortgage program.”

In his first stint at the FHA, Montgomery oversaw the implementation of the HECM for Purchase program, and later quipped that he’d even recommend reverse mortgages to his own mother.

“I told her that I was her son and would always be looking out for her best interests,” Montgomery told The Mortgage Reports’ Tom Kelly in 2015. “I also told her that I administered the program for the United States of America and thought it was a pretty good idea.”

Montgomery’s formal confirmation has already received applause from reverse mortgage professionals.

“Throughout the course of his career in both government and the private sector, Mr. Montgomery has demonstrated a thoughtful approach to the country’s housing needs, and in particular to the needs of an increasingly aging population,” Scott Norman, vice president of government relations at Finance of America Reverse, said in a statement sent to RMD. “We are confident the pragmatic approach to management and oversight of the HECM program Mr. Montgomery demonstrated from 2005 to 2009 will once again benefit both seniors and American taxpayers.”

Bell reiterated his support for Montgomery in a statement as well.

“Today, the Senate confirmed a highly qualified housing leader with deep subject matter expertise, and experience working in the administrations of both political parties, to serve as the commissioner of the Federal Housing Administration,” Bell said. “We applaud the Senate for its bipartisan support of Brian Montgomery’s nomination and look forward to working with the incoming commissioner on efforts to support and sustain the HECM program, which more than one million older households have used to supplement their retirement savings and age in place.”

David Stevens, president and CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association, echoed Bell’s support.

“]Montgomery’s] experience, knowledge, and ability will ensure his success in this position,” Stevens said in a statement. “MBA fully supports FHA’s efforts to assist low- and moderate-income Americans and first-time homebuyers.”

But Montgomery also drew the ire of some Senate Democrats, who criticized his work for the Collingwood Group, a Washington, D.C.-based advisory firm.

“I’ve seen some amazing cases of spinning through the revolving door, but this one might really take the cake,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, said during Montgomery’s nomination hearing back in October.

Warren in particular criticized Collingwood for performing consulting work for Wells Fargo, despite the fact that some of the banking giant’s regulatory issues stemmed from fraudulent FHA loans generated during Montgomery’s time as head of the administration. The then-nominee responded that he did not work directly on the Wells Fargo matter while employed at Collingwood.

The Massachusetts senator led a group of Democrats in insisting that Montgomery receive a full recorded vote, and not a voice confirmation; in addition, the new commissioner’s nomination faced an unrelated delay over several senators’ concerns with Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson.

Montgomery laid out a collaborative vision for FHA’s dealings with private lenders going forward, speculating that the administration may have “gone too far” in some of its recent enforcement actions.

“We must do a better job of providing regulatory clarity to mortgage lenders,” he told the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. “It’s time treat them more like business partners than adversaries.”

Before the vote, Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, used that testimony to criticize Montgomery and voice his intention to vote against the confirmation.

“I’m concerned that Mr. Montgomery, in the interest of making the FHA a better partner to the mortgage industry — many of whom he served as a board member or advisor — will lose sight of the interests that FHA and consumers have,” Brown said, though he did have some praise for Montgomery’s prior experience and support for the FHA’s value to Americans.

The nay votes consisted entirely of Democrats — including Brown, Warren, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York — and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. The yea votes included most Republicans as well as 24 Democrats; Republican Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain of Arizona did not vote, along with Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois.

Written by Alex Spanko

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