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Posts Tagged ‘ASC’

Three Hours On C-SPAN Yields One Granddaughter

May 21, 2023 | 10:09 am | Events |

On Friday morning, I was one of five expert witnesses (and the only as an appraiser) to testify on the topic of appraisal bias in front of the Appraisal Subcommittee (ASC). The witnesses waited together in the green room, plus additional The Appraisal Foundation (TAF) staff. We had a delightful conversation – everyone was very friendly and a pleasure to be with, given the adversarial nature of our looming testimony.

I’ve spoken many hundreds of times on national television but never on C-SPAN, so participating in this event was a bucket list check-off for me. The FHFA auditorium and facilities were impressive – the organization of the event was first class and ran very smoothly (way to go, Julie!).

During the first hour of testimony, our fourth grandchild was born. My wife was in the audience and stepped out of the hearing (the nerve!) to take the call from my oldest son on the news of our new granddaughter.

The Appraisal Subcommittee (ASC) held a second hearing on challenges facing the appraisal industry, including barriers to entering the profession and racial bias in home appraisals. The panel’s first hearing on such topics occurred in January. The ASC is an interagency committee under the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council and oversees real estate appraisal regulations. The Federal Housing Finance Agency hosted the event at its headquarters in Washington, DC.

It’s a three-hour hearing, but if you are connected to the appraisal industry in any way, I encourage you to listen. You can hear my opening statement at about the 26-minute mark. The text on the C-SPAN website was generated from unedited closed captions. Here was my formal statement, but since the timing was strictly limited to 5 minutes, I read this abbreviated version, which in hindsight, was better and more to the point.


Afterwards…

Three regulators from the ASC came to me from the stage immediately afterward and said I was the best dressed in the room, and they loved my tie. I wasn’t expecting that. Ha. All were very nice. My wife and I immediately shared pictures of our new granddaughter.

Thoughts…

Morgan Williams, General Counsel, National Fair Housing Alliance – He was a compelling witness – he drove home that he wanted access to anonymized loan-level data to determine the potential valuation bias.

Angela G. Jemmott, Bureau Chief, California Bureau of Real Estate Appraisers, Member of the Association of Appraiser Regulatory Officials. She was a powerhouse of testimony, advocating practicum solutions in addition to PAREA.

Michelle Czekalski Bradley, Certified General Appraiser, Chair of the Appraisal Standards Board (ASB) of TAF, was earnest and towed the Dave Bunton narrative. When the CFPB head went after her for the conflict of interest of her position, she named me by name (an unforced error) and said there was no conflict. She may believe that with all her heart, but most of her peers in the industry think otherwise. Her husband is a senior official at McKissock, the largest provider of online appraisal courses, and they have a financial arrangement with TAF on USPAP courses – and Michelle heads the board that makes changes to USPAP. This is another example of the stunning lack of oversight for this not-for-profit (TAF) that modifies USPAP that becomes embedded into laws in the 50 states and five territories. I’m sure she means well and, in her mind, is giving back to the industry, but she is remarkably oblivious to the optics of her position. I believe Dave Bunton hand-selected her for her ability to follow orders. TAF is a monarchy, nothing less.

Brad Swinney, Chief Appraiser, Farm Credit Bank of Texas, Chair of the Appraiser Qualifications Board (AQB), had a hard time presenting and defending PAREA. He, like Michelle, was hand selected by Dave Bunton after the prior AQB chair was removed immediately because he wanted to explore the stunning lack of diversity in the appraisal profession. (We’re 98% white and dead last (400 of 400) as tracked by the BLS). So it follows that if the prior chair was removed immediately after trying to dig into the appraisal industry’s lack of diversity, then it’s just a hop, skip, and jump to assume that Brad was brought in to follow Dave Bunton’s position of staying away from the topic. Brad mentioned several times that “someone” (me) was saying 1,500 hours of experience were required, yet he stated only 1,000 hours were required for residential certification experience. As the AQB chair, he was uninformed. I was referring to the New York State requirement for 1,500 hours as a New York City appraiser, as noted on the New York State website.

I’m glad we’ve cleared that up.

TAF’s representatives (Michelle & Brad) were under siege by the ASC board and did not do well under fire. They found themselves wiggling to defend the indefensible even though they were hand-picked by Dave Bunton for their ability to toe the party line. Both tried hard to frame themselves in a silo – Michelle – when it came to how board members were selected and Brad – how they had no responsibility for how much PAREA would cost appraisers. To be clear, TAF had always pushed back hard on PAREA until Dave realized that it could be used to divert attention from, and possibly have a positive influence, on our industry’s stunning lack of diversity.

When I was highly critical of the two-year cycle in my testimony and how TAF goes back and forth on rules that confuse everyone, Michelle brought up the current four-year run of USPAP without changes and how on January 1st, there will not be an expiration date. The problem with framing it that way was that TAF claimed USPAP was frozen for four years because of COVID. Dave saw the pressure coming for change and used COVID as an excuse, yet the reality was that Zoom became ubiquitous, and there was no reason to stop the cycle other than to use COVID to save face. Dave recently realized that because states required USPAP 7-hour update courses every two years, they were still going to benefit from a revenue flow from the classes and could still avoid grant money from the ASC so they wouldn’t have any “strings” attached to their actions. Dave can still fly all over the world on boondoggles to valuation conferences, dining on steak and fine wine without scrutiny. I brought up in my testimony that only about 15 minutes of each 7-hour update class contained new information.

To be clear, only one person of color has been on a technical board (ASB + AQB) in the 3+ decade history of The Appraisal Foundation, which has been led by the same person the entire time. And that one person, despite being highly qualified, was only accepted on the board because of significant outside pressure from myself and a handful of others. Proof of this is that no more persons of color were invited to any of their boards in the ensuing three years.

For many TAF board members, this is just a resume builder. They won’t do anything to forward progress in the industry because Dave Bunton and his sycophants will work hard to prevent it like they just did on the AQB. But some people will work as insiders to make a difference as long as Dave and Kelly don’t know who they are.

This TAF “byzantine and weird” corporate bureaucracy is an unfair burden to everyday working appraisers and is destroying the public trust. I hope last Friday’s testimony helped confirm a few reasons why there is no diversity in the industry, and it will enable the ASC to push for accountability and change at TAF.

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With All That PPP And Without All That Travel, The Appraisal Foundation Doesn’t Need A Grant From ASC This Year

August 19, 2020 | 1:36 pm | Investigative |

This post previously appeared in the August 14, 2020 edition of Housing Notes. I’ve been writing these weekly summaries on housing topics for more than five years. To subscribe for free, you can sign up here. Then you can look forward to each issue every Friday at 2pm New York Time.

The TAF decline in credibility keeps on coming…

After the recent letter debacle where the Appraisal Foundation (TAF) opined falsely that Title XI did not permit the Appraisal Subcommittee (ASC) to provide oversight on TAF, we now have a letter from TAF essentially saying they are making so much money that they don’t need a grant this year from ASC. Who is writing all these letters? It can’t be Dave.

[click for full pdf]

In other words, because TAF saved so much money from not being able to fly around the country during the pandemic, they don’t need ASC Grant money this year. From this point, it’s only a hop skip and a jump to saying they don’t need the grant money so therefore they don’t need oversight. And grant money comes with “strings attached” – that the money used from a grant had to be accounted for to the ASC. And if TAF doesn’t need oversight this year, what is to stop them from raising USPAP related fees and stop collecting grant money forever? The conspiracy theorist in me is starting to worry about that aspect of this new more forceful tone out of TAF these days against any oversight.

No Grants = TAF + PPP

Why would the TAF turn down the annual grant process but still have the need to request PPP? What is the hardship they are declaring when they are saving hundreds of thousands in travel costs that are already questionable in their scale?

My appraisal firm in Manhattan applied for PPP because our business collapsed more than 90% almost immediately for two months. It enabled us to survive. I would think it would be obvious to TAF that their $626,000 annual travel expense would collapse. What other revenues would be sharply curtailed in the new online world?

That’s why Jeremy Bagott, MAI, AI-GRS, the Cosmic Cobra guy, issued this press release on July 6th:


* * * FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE * * *


WITH MILLIONS IN CASH AND STOCKS, APPRAISAL FOUNDATION HAULS IN CARES ACT RELIEF

(LOS ANGELES, July 6, 2020) – Over the years, the tiny, publicly funded Appraisal Foundation has built up a large reserve in cash and publicly traded equities. Its war chest grew from $3.6 million in 2010 to $6.5 million in 2018, the most recent year its IRS Form 990 is available. Its Cause IQ peer nonprofits had nothing like it in their reserves. Despite this burgeoning pot, it has continued to receive public grant money each year from state-licensed appraisers via the mandatory National Registry Fee. In early July 2020, it was learned that, despite wielding this hefty reserve and its guarantee of annual public grant money, the nonprofit also applied for and received CARES Act relief through the Small Business Administration of between $150,000 and $350,000. This is money that could otherwise have gone to struggling mom-and-pop appraisers hurt by the pandemic.

From 2010 to 2018, the nation’s licensed appraisers paid the 14-employee organization more than $6 million through the mandatory National Registry Fee. The group then parlayed that subsidy into more than $27.6 million in publishing revenue extracted from the same captive appraisers during that time. It has copyrighted the publicly subsidized materials and granted exclusive online course rights.

In 2017, the foundation paid its top officer more than $760,000 in an internal retirement-plus-salary deal that effectively doubled his pay from the previous year. For 2018, trustees paid him $414,000 – less than the previous year’s haul but still more than twice the salary of the chairman of the Federal Reserve, who oversees 20,000 employees and the nation’s central bank.

These issues would be no one’s business were this organization not receiving guaranteed annual public grants, tax-exempt status and allowed to wield a government-authorized publishing franchise and contracts with the U.S. Department of the Interior and Department of Justice – and it is now receiving PPP money. A congressionally authorized federal contractor with guaranteed public grants is not what lawmakers had in mind when they passed the CARES Act, which includes the PPP program.

During this pandemic, expect to see licensed appraisers further weakened with fewer options and higher license upkeep costs. Expect the nonprofit to further leverage its copyrights – the development of which appraisers pay for. It is now receiving CARES Act relief. It has never let a good crisis go to waste.

If you’re frustrated, here’s something you can do right away:

Email Mark Abbott, Grants Director at the Appraisal Subcommittee, at Mark@asc.gov and James Park, its Executive Director, at Jim@asc.gov and tell them you want the Appraisal Foundation’s next grant to be reduced by whatever public funding the foundation has received from the CARES Act during the pandemic and its reserves of cash and publicly traded securities, which totaled $6.5 million as of its most recent IRS Form 990. The $40 National Registry Fee paid by appraisers each year ($80 at biennial license renewal) needs to be rolled back by a commensurate amount to provide relief to appraisers. The waste and abuse going on at this tiny nonprofit is being underwritten by the public and it needs to stop. Please cc Arthur Lindo at the Federal Reserve at arthur.lindo@frb.gov.


    • *

About “Dispatches from the Cosmic Cobra Breeding Farm”: The culmination of two years of research, a new book illuminates over-the-top spending and questionable dealings at the familiar Beltway nonprofit. Published just before the pandemic, it chronicles international jet-setting by officers and trustees, conflicts of interest, lobbyist tie-ins, outsized cash reserves and swollen pay at the tiny nonprofit. The book is available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle versions. You can read more about it on the book’s Amazon page.

The Appraisal Foundation’s IRS Form 990 may be viewed online at Propublica’s Nonprofit Explorer. To find it, Google “Propublica Nonprofit Explorer” and type “Appraisal Foundation” into the search box and follow the links.


# #


Here is another email from appraiser Jeremy Bagott (The Cosmic Cobra guy). Bold my emphasis.


Dear Colleague,

Thanks to the Small Business Administration’s data release on July 6, a few news outlets are working doggedly to expose organizations that, with dubious need, have applied for and received federal PPP relief. Ryan Tracy of the Wall Street Journal recently wrote about double-dipping by state highway contractors in Florida who applied for and received PPP relief despite holding government contracts unaffected by Covid. You can read the story here (but you’ll have to get past the Journal’s paywall).

A rogues’ gallery of organizations that have applied for PPP relief include Harvard University (with its $39 billion endowment), the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (with its reported $3.7 billion valuation) and, yes, the congressionally authorized Appraisal Foundation. The former two were shamed into giving the money back once the matter was made public.

Unlike Harvard and the L.A. Lakers, survival of the Appraisal Foundation and its paid panels is literally guaranteed in a federal statute. The statute mandates its guaranteed annual government grants. The making of the grants is part of the Appraisal Subcommittee’s charter. According to its IRS Form 990 for 2018, the most recent available, the Appraisal Foundation spent $626,000 on travel that year. (If past years are any measure, some of it was on international junkets for top officers and favored trustees.) It no longer has that travel expenditure due to the pandemic. The foundation also had $6.5 million in cash and publicly traded equities, according to its 2018 tax form. Why did it apply for between $150,000 and $350,000 in PPP relief?

If you now google “Appraisal Foundation” and “PPP,” the top hit is a CNN Politics site that identifies the Appraisal Foundation as a nonprofit that has applied for and received PPP funding. You can see it here. The Wall Street Journal and CNN are doing God’s work in this respect.

If you’re frustrated, here’s something you can do right away:

Email Mark Abbott, Grants Director at the Appraisal Subcommittee, at Mark@asc.gov and James Park, its Executive Director, at Jim@asc.gov and tell them you want the Appraisal Foundation’s next grant to be reduced by whatever public funding the foundation has received from the CARES Act during the pandemic and its reserves of cash and publicly traded securities. The $40 National Registry Fee paid by appraisers each year ($80 at biennial license renewal) needs to be rolled back by a commensurate amount to provide relief to appraisers during the pandemic. The waste and abuse going on at this nonprofit is being underwritten by appraisers (who are also voters and taxpayers). It needs to stop. Please cc Arthur Lindo at the Federal Reserve at arthur.lindo@frb.gov.

Best regards,



Jeremy Bagott, MAI, AI-GRS
jbagott@gmail.com


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Appraisal Institute Membership Falls Sharply As ASC Registry Levels Off

August 24, 2017 | 6:56 pm | Investigative |

In the latest mid year numbers for Appraisal Institute membership, 15,000 members have paid their dues as of May 31, 2017. That’s 3,000 less than this year’s projected 18,000 total on their web site. AI National forecasted a 700 member drop in membership for 2017.

In all fairness, AI National could see additional sign-ups but this will be tempered by the now spirited debates surrounding their governance proposal. The key issue in front of the organization now is the “taking” policy where they announced their plans to take chapter funds last fall. This was largely done without advanced warning or membership input and their recent governance committee came up with a similar recommendation.

I assume the faster decline in membership occurred because of all the unknowns with AI National’s future or actual survival in the short term.

In the following chart, I matched up the current ASC registry totals with AI membership through the middle of the year (May for AI National and July for ASC).

Since the financial crisis, AI membership dropped by one-third while the appraisal industry fell 20.8%. The latter makes sense given the housing bubble peaked a decade ago. In what reality does a trade group’s leadership get a pass when their membership falls faster than the industry they claim to be leading?

An URGENT request to my readers: I have only been able to verify AI membership totals back to 2007 and a 25,000 total for 1995. If you have any annual membership totals by year prior to 2007, it would be greatly appreciated. I would keep the source anonymous. I am interested in comparing the AI membership trend since 1992 when the ASC registry data begins.

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