Wednesday, August 1, 2012

"...Mortgage Resolution Partners (one of whose investors is Chronicle contributor Willie Brown)..."

The Willie Brown investment is a kind of important detail mentioned well down in this SF Chron article favorable to the Mortgage Resolution Partners company. Reportedly MRP has been approaching counties, notably San Bernardino, about public-private partnerships that sound medium-unholy as these things go. The political importance of the company's principals seems to matter a lot.

I don't have any new news to post about the MRP proposal, which is entirely above my pay grade, but I did want to comment about its flavor. Thing is, I think we're starting to see a new flavor of, not exactly monopoly capitalism, but you could call it "walled garden" capitalism, in the sense that AOL, Facebook, Twitter, Apple's iPhone world or Amazon's Kindle world create "walled gardens" for electronic customers. Out in the bricks-and-mortar world, too, companies seem to be succeeding best where they corner a governmental concession or some other exclusive advantage. Always been true to some extent, but just feels like there's more of it lately. Private prison contractor stuff, for example. (Sometimes the walls of the "walled garden" are literal.) Or the virtual and actual enclosures of public space for the Olympics. Or, here in San Francisco, the America's Cup.

Anyway, about MRP, there's more about the company's high-level Democratic Party affiliations in this Bay Citizen report by Matt Smith. From his reporting, and from bigger-picture work on this subject by David Dayen at Firedoglake, it sounds like the MRP people may be trying to bring public-spirited projects of eminent-domain mortgage rescue into their own "walled garden". By running the only game of its type in a given town or area, a company like that could do unnecessarily well by doing good. The Smith article says one investor has talked about hopes of 20 percent profits.

Banking organizations, meanwhile, have been promising to fight the whole idea for the usual wrong reasons. There are never only two sides to anything, don't you find?

Dayen has been following the Democratic Party connections too. He noted on Twitter that "MRP includes Peter Ragone, who was [Lt. Gov. Gavin] Newsom's Communications Director when he was mayor of SF."

Hm, today's Chron article mentions Newsom as supporting the MRP plan. It mentions Brown as an investor in the company but it doesn't mention that (according to Smith), Ragone is now the company's spokesman.

Really, as some other folks (per Dayen) have been suggesting, why doesn't a plain old government entity do this work without creating a risk of profiteering?

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