If you’re a regular or even occasional reader of Mandelman Matters, you’re reading this now… and waiting for the twist or the punch line, right? You’re thinking… “Oh yeah right… I know him… what’s he saying by saying he doesn’t care about his readers? Okay, you hooked me in… now tell me what you’re talking about.”
But, it’s not like that… sorry to disappoint you… I’ve recently realized that I actually don’t care about my readers. You read me all the time? So what? It’s not like I get a nickel a reader, or anything like that… so read me… read something else, I could care less.
I used to care about my readers but, truth be told, this past week leading up to today, something happened that changed me… and I think you all have the right to know what it was that has caused me to think this way.
You see… today, Dina and Robert Giangregorio of Huntington Beach, California received their permanent loan modification from Ocwen Loan Servicing. Do you remember them? I wrote about them last week… three kids… Robert has “Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis, one of the worst types of MS one can have. He only has use of one of his arms and he’s in a wheelchair. The headline to the story I wrote about them was: “Ocwen Loan Servicing Takes Home from Handicapped Because There’s Equity.”
Now do you remember? If not, you’d better click that link and read the article before going on or the rest of this article won’t make nearly as much sense. Like missing “Part One” of something and then trying to just dive in at “Part Two.” It’s never the same as if you had seen the first one.
So, yes… Ocwen sent the Giangregorio’s the documents for their permanent loan modification today, and as you might imagine… they were way beyond pleased… in fact, it’s safe to say that they were overwhelmed. Dina sent me an email right after she heard… all it said was:
“Martin!! I am crying. Words cannot express…”
I understood. I felt the same way, but not for the same reason.
I emailed her back maybe 15 minutes after they learned of the great news and asked her to call me. I wanted to ask if they would be interviewed on camera for a documentary on the foreclosure crisis that I’m filming this summer.
Dina emailed me back right away… she said she needed time to compose herself… calm down a bit… before she could call me. Like I said, they were quite happy that after living through a sale date for their home last Monday, they would not be moving any time soon after all. Quite a relief, I’d imagine.
So, a few minutes later she and Robert called… I was on the speakerphone and as one might expect, they were both thanking me for helping them save their home. Dina told me that she felt as if a cloud had been lifted… I said I understood, even though for me… that cloud was still there.
I said they were welcome and not to give it another thought. Besides, as I told them… I was only a part of it… there were lots of others involved, and those others were really the ones who deserve the credit for making this happen. First of all, CDA Law in Mission Viejo, who are true stars of the loan modification world, jumped in against all odds to represent Dina and Robert and really were the technical experts here, and Julie Greenfield, who is the absolute top of the food chain when it comes to loan modifications, also volunteered to help push the ball over the line. (Both CDA and Julie can be found on my Trusted Attorney list.)
All I did was write about it… it was the others who took action and made Ocwen take notice… they weren’t just “my readers”… they were my “DOERS,” and how I feel about them… well, I think Dina said it best when she said… “Words cannot express…”
It had all started a little over a week ago… my wife had just picked me up from the airport. I had just flown in from Hawaii after meeting with members of the state legislature on issues related to the foreclosure crisis. I wrote their story the following day, I believe. It was hard to write, because it made me angry and sad.
And then, after wiping away a few tears and swearing like a drunk pissed off sailor… down at the very bottom of their article, after I typed “Mandelman out,” I gave out the email address and phone number of Ocwen’s Executive Chairman, and said:
“Want to send Mr. Erbey a note to share your thoughts on the Giangregorio’s situation… Well, by all means… be my guest…”
It wasn’t even 15 minutes later that I received an email… I was being cc’d on an email sent to Ocwen’s Executive Chairman by someone who I had thought was just a “reader,” but now I saw was a “DOER.” I wrote back to her right away, thanking her for doing what she had done.
Minutes later another email… same thing… another DOER was cc’ing me on another email to Ocwen’s Executive Chairman. And then another came in before I could even send another thank you note in response… and then another… and another… and yet another. Some of my readers were DOERS and they had read my article and done something about it.
That went on for a few days.
Then I received an email from a senior executive at Ocwen’s Washington D.C. office. He was responding to an email that I had sent him before I posted the Giangregorio’s story, telling him that I was about to run the story and giving him a chance to comment. I wasn’t expecting to hear back from anyone… I do it all the time before I go after a banker or servicer or government boob… it seems like the journalist-sort-of-thing to do, right? But no one ever responds.
Here’s what Ocwen’s senior exec said in his email to me:
Your email was forwarded to me but I have been traveling and didn’t see it until yesterday. I apologize for not getting back sooner.
I understand the Giangregorious story has been posted, but would like to discuss the situation with you if possible. We’ve actually worked very hard on this case, are saddened by it and will continue to do what we can. We have not foreclosed and will continue to try to assist the family within our legal constraints. I can assure you that our commitment to helping distressed homeowners keep their homes with sustainable payment plans is genuine — it is also very much consistent with our own business interests. Since the outset of the mortgage crisis, we’ve worked out solutions for over 100,000 families to avoid foreclosure and are recognized as the industry’s loan modification leader.
But, again, I think it would be worthwhile to talk…would there be a time say later this afternoon or anytime this week for a call?
And then he signed it.
I emailed him back and within an hour or so we were talking on the phone. It was later in the afternoon on the Friday before July 4th weekend, and with him being in D.C. I didn’t expect the call to last very long… but it did… at least a couple of hours… it was after 7:00 PM East Coast time when we hung up, resolving to talk again after the holiday.
I had expected him to be a nice guy… and he was… but, he was also very smart and we talked about the financial and foreclosure crises in the big picture sense, going back to examine all of the many different factors that led to the meltdown. He knew some “insider” sort of things that I hadn’t known, and I knew some stuff that he was interested to hear about.
I liked him, and I had not expected that to be the case. As he phrased it… we were in “violent agreement” on just about every single issue we discussed. He said he’d send me an article he’d written a couple of years back on loan modifications and the foreclosure crisis, and I said I’d send him links to a couple of hundred articles that I’d written on the subject.
After we hung up, I had two thoughts come immediately to mind:
- Wow… maybe he and I can make something happen here… start something that other servicers would see as a success, and then follow. I felt the same way about what had happened in Hawaii… maybe, just maybe… I was gaining on it. And…
- OMG… If April Charney and Max Gardner find out that I liked the guy, and that I could possibly work with him on something… they’ll kill me. To say nothing of what my “readers” would think if I said something positive about Ocwen. Someone could have a heart attack.
Well, I’m going to be talking with Ocwen some more… I did genuinely like the guy, so why not? Someone has got to show those on the other side what’s going on from the homeowner’s perspective, and after writing 500 articles on the subject and talking to thousands of homeowners over the last couple of years… it might as well be me.
Also, just as I had posited to myself while sitting in a meeting in Rep. Herkes office in the Hawaii State Capitol building… if I wasn’t here, who would be… to which I answered what was the obvious truth of the matter… NO ONE. There simply wasn’t anyone else, which made me wonder if perhaps I was insane, for a couple of seconds anyway.
So, now it looks like I might be visiting with members of other state legislatures as well. I might even go to Florida and Atlanta to visit Ocwen and see what they’re doing down there…. maybe make a stop in D.C. too. And I decided I would do whatever I needed to in order to finish the documentary I’d been working on for over a year… I wasn’t sure how exactly, without my wife choking me to death in my sleep, but I decided that I had to figure out some way to get it done.
Because that’s what DOERS do… they DO THINGS… they get things DONE… important things.
So, you see… it’s been quite a learning experience this past week or two… although I think I worked 120 hours and missed two nights of sleep, which I can’t keep doing if I expect to be able to DO anything for very long.
As far as my “readers” go, however, well… they can keep reading me if they want… or not… I don’t really care because from now on, I’m going to be concentrating on my “DOERS.” Together, we’re going to DO IMPORTANT THINGS and we’re going to finally bring this unconscionable travesty of justice they call the foreclosure crisis to an end.
And after that, we’re going to start to rebuild America’s working middle class, brick by brick. And one day… perhaps sooner than you might think… this country will once again be a place in which I can know that my daughter’s life will be as wonderful as mine has been… before all this happened… before Wall Street took over and broke the world.
People have asked me numerous times over the last two or three years, why I do what I do… and how I can possibly hope to beat the bankers… and I’ve always replied the exact same way: Because I’m going to win, I assure them. Some also ask me why I’m so passionate about this? And I always reply: Why aren’t you?
You see, when Dina said that she felt that a cloud had been lifted, I understood but I didn’t feel that way at all, because I knew when I hung up with Ocwen that first time that they would modify the Giangregorio’s loan. But, although that would be great for the Giangregorio family, what about the thousands of others all over this country that I didn’t write about? No one should lose a home if there’s a way for them to keep it. Not one person… ever.
Dina and Robert sent me another email shortly after we spoke… it read:
“We cannot express our gratitude for taking such an interest and huge involvement in our situation. We are in awe that we are actually finally being ‘heard’.”
They sent it to me, but it’s a message to all of my readers who are also DOERS. You really did something here… and what you did is a big deal… huge. I’m so proud of you… and thankful… you should be proud of yourselves too. You made a real difference in the lives of many.
And the best part of the whole thing is that even if you’re weren’t a DOER this time around… even if until now you’ve just been a “reader,” it doesn’t matter… ANYONE CAN BECOME A DOER AT ANY MOMENT.
That’s right… even right now… this moment… you can transform yourself from being a useless “reader” to being a DOER of important things. Just say to yourself… assuming no one is around because you don’t want to appear as if you’re talking to yourself…
Starting today… I’m a DOER!
What are we DOERS going to DO? Well, we’re going to figure that out as we go. Every week, I’m going to try to post an article under the heading: “THINGS TO DO… THAT MATTER.” So, when you read that line, you’ll know that after you’ve read the article, there will be work that needs to be DONE… send an email… make a phone call… whatever it is… so, JUST DO IT. (LOL, I just couldn’t help that.)
This is a game of inches… there are no magic bullets or big sweeping solutions, of that I am quite sure. We need to hit singles, not home runs… and sure as shootin’ we’ll win this battle one day… little by little, step-by-step… one day at a time, as they say… (OMG, I think I just mixed enough metaphors and exploited enough clichés to cause myself physical harm.)
Warren Buffet told Bloomberg today that he predicts “Job Growth When Housing Rebounds.” Genius… that man really is a genius… who would have ever thought that solving the foreclosure crisis was so important. Hmmm… maybe I should write something about that point. I’ll have to give it some thought. Thanks for weighing in, Warren… we’ll let you go back to bed now.
Housing doesn’t “rebound” as long as the foreclosures continue unabated, in fact nothing “rebounds” unless someone first throws a ball. We have to DO something to STOP the foreclosure crisis. It’s a forest fire and it will continue to burn until it runs out of forest.
Every time housing prices fall, more people go underwater on their loans. And every time a homeowner goes underwater, they are removed from the real estate market because most of the people that buy homes are not first time buyers, they have to sell their old home before buying their new one. But once underwater, they can’t, so demand for housing falls as more people find that they owe more than their home is worth. And as demand falls, so does price… and that means even more people go underwater.
Once you’re underwater, any of life’s events can lead to foreclosure. An illness… an accident… a divorce… the loss of a job… any of those can lead to a foreclosure when the homeowner is underwater. The Giangregorio’s only fell two months behind and that almost led to them losing their home.
Foreclosures breed foreclosures… period. In Hawaii, Rep. Herkes repeated the phrase several times to others, and I’m sure he’s said it quite a few more times since I was there. He’s a DOER, by the way.
Okay, so that’s all for now… I just thought I’d let my readers know how I feel and why… and I had to give my DOERS the great news about the Giangregorios. Again… thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Oh, and Dina and Robert both agreed to be filmed next week, and I’m really looking forward to that.
But, now I’m off to Palm Desert where my daughter is dancing in a national dance competition this weekend. She goes every year. It’ll be 125 degrees outside, which is miserable, but inside there’ll be 5,000 girls from 5-16 years old all screaming their heads off at the same time, as the Moms try to get them ready for their next number. So, when you think about it… 125 degrees really isn’t even that hot… LOL.