The thing Michael Bright is most proud of as interim head of Ginnie Mae is his effort to combat churn in Department of Veterans Affairs-guaranteed mortgages. Rising cashout refinancing of VA loans risked turning investors off and potentially signaled predatory or misleading behavior by lenders.
He says this effort was greatly helped by enlisting, and listening to, lawmakers, so that instead of slapping the agency down when it policed the mortgage industry, they were “cheering us on.”
Bright is bringing this approach to his new role as head of the Structured Finance Industry Group. In the past, SFIG has struggled to reconcile the divergent interests of its 350 members; the role Bright assumes on Jan. 21 has been vacant for the past six months. He sees the trade group’s most fundamental challenge to be demystifying securitization for policymakers. “There’s a lot of mystique and misinformation all around, and this is an opportunity to really solve that,” he said. This will require “more honest, two-way dialogue.”
While this may feel like a risk, “I feel it’s a risk worth taking, and it’s going to pay a lot of dividends,” he said.
Bright joined Ginnie Mae in July 2017 and his nomination as president had been pending since May 2018; his departure on Jan. 16 prolongs the permanent leadership gap at the agency. (Maren Kasper, current executive vice president of Ginnie Mae, will now serve as acting president.)
He says he’s moving to SFIG because he “got comfortable with the idea that I can do as much, if not more, of the things I care about there as much as anywhere else,” adding, “it happened to be the right time.”
Bright’s move is reminiscent of David Stevens’ resignation as Federal Housing Administration commissioner and assistant HUD secretary to become the president and CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association in 2011. Federal ethics rules restricted Stevens from lobbying HUD for one year.
Bright’s salary as executive vice president of Ginnie Mae was $170,000 in 2017, according to public data compiled by federalpay.org. Ted Tozer’s salary as Ginnie Mae president was $155,000 in 2016, his last full year on the job. That same year, SFIG paid Richard Johns over $1.2 million, according to the nonprofit’s tax records, compiled by nonprofit watchdog group Guidestar.
What follows is a transcript of a telephone interview, edited for length.