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2008's Top Ten Newsmakers in Real Estate

2008's Top Ten Newsmakers in Real Estate See who made to our first ever list.

When almost all strong numbers in the once booming real estate industry are now in free fall, the past year has made the people read beyond the headlines. Almost everyone got involved in the news from Main Street to Wall Street, from taking advantage of historically low mortgage rates to getting a big slice in the bailout pie. It’s about time we list the top ten newsmakers in the property sector for the past year.

10. Jamie Dimon: The CEO of JPMorgan Chase was brave enough to acquire Bear Stearns and begin restructuring the bad loans that it has inherited. If it wasn’t enough, it bolstered its acquisitions with the widely reported Washington Mutual purchase. He maneuvered the bank out of major crisis damage by taking fewer losses on leveraged loans compared to other leading banks in the industry.

9. Henry Paulson: The Treasury Secretary believed the country could weather the crisis with his robust ideas for the $700 billion bail out plan but if a woman’s mind is a weather, then how should the industry describe that of Paulson’s after changing from one plan to another? He first proposed the buyout of bank’s troubled mortgage assets then succeeding it with the plan of acquiring equity stakes from resilient financial firms. That was the only thing needed to start big a turnabout.

8. Lawrence Yun: The National Association of Realtors’ South Korean Chief Economist has been on the spotlight with his regular updates on housing statistics. What made him even more popular are his views. In the middle of March, Yun made an argument against severe rate cuts since it could very well lead to inflation. Later this year, he urged the government to purchase mortgage points of primary homeowners. He believes this move can push up home values by 4 percent. It can recover home prices to pre-crisis levels with lower rates inducing higher demand in the process.

7. Meredith Whitney: She called for a restructuring in the banking system when only a few sensed that something was about to explode into what we now have – an economic crisis. The managing director of Oppenheimer & Co. was the first one to notice about Citigroup’s deadly mortgage transactions. Michael Lewis of Bloomberg.com comments, “Since then, the 38-year-old Whitney has become the closest thing Wall Street has to an oracle. She’s still not referred to in the press as “the leading Wall Street analyst” (Merrill Lynch & Co.’s Guy Moszkowski routinely gets that honor) but she is, for the moment, the most interesting one.”

6. Richard Fuld: The former Wall Street honcho has lost his credibility in business. Before the collapse of the embattled Lehman Brothers, he was living an upscale lifestyle that most of his staff can only dream of until he could no longer bring his bank’s stock price above $7. By October, Fuld found himself testifying in Congress on Lehman’s eventual downfall.

5. Bernard Madoff: The hedge fund head revived the Ponzi scheme in what could be called history’s largest financial scandal to date. With no clear disclosure filings, poor auditing records, denial of online account information for his clients and unusual bullish stock forecasts are just a few of the signs that reveal what business he ran. While we still await further progress in his case, a large number of commercial brokers and developers in the real estate industry have been victimized.

4. Stephen Joynt, Raymond McDaniel and Deven Sharma: The testifiers from Fitch, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s respectively created quite a stir when they appeared in Congress last October. Apparently, their rating agencies overrated securities that were already facing risks brought about by the trouble from the subprime mortgages. One more note: our suspicions were proven when reports revealed that these agencies were paid by the rated companies to publish that much needed hyped ratings for their own benefit.

3. Ben Bernanke: While the Federal Reserve Chairman may be credited for strongly advocating the Troubled Asset Relief Program, lowering the Federal Funds rate and avoiding future moral hazard problems by failing Lehman Brothers, Bernanke has created a lesser impact but greater exposure among his contemporaries. It might be recalled that last February, he put off speculations about impending bank crises and property busts that we are currently having.

2. Sheila Bair: As an advocate of guaranteeing creditworthy homeowners first before other institutions consume the bailout fund, the Chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation is seen and heard almost everyday in the news. She pushes for loan modifications and foreclosure prevention through a number of proposals to the Congress one of which is to let the government back mortgages that will be readjusted. It can lower monthly payments for troubled borrowers.

1. The American Homeowner: With falling home values, tighter credit markets, falling consumer and builder confidence indices and an economy in recession, all things are still bleak for the troubled homeowner. When the business news suddenly interests an average citizen with fears of retrenchment and possibility of mortgage default, this is the first time that Americans are learning about the workings of the property market and its effects to the national economy.

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