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FHA Wholesaler Ending Operations

EquiFirst to cease mortgage operations

February 17, 2009

By staff

A wholesale lender that once claimed to be the 12th largest U.S. nonprime lender is calling it quits after an apparent failed attempt at government lending. The company was originally acquired from Regions Financial Corp. two years ago by a unit of British banking giant Barclays Bank Plc.

EquiFirst Corp. has issued a statement that it is ceasing mortgage operations. No new applications will be accepted for "any type of mortgage loan product."

Loans already scheduled to close will not be impacted, the Charlotte, N.C.-based company noted.

The existing pipeline of business will be continued to be processed, according to the statement -- which was sent out by e-mail to customers and posted on its Web site. Mortgage brokers will be notified about the status of their applications once underwriting and processing has been completed.

Calls to the company went straight to voicemail.

EquiFirst was founded as a wholesale lender by Charles "Brad" Bradley in 1990. He sold the firm to Regions Financial Corp. in 1998 for an undisclosed price.

On March 30, 2007, Barclays Capital Real Estate Holdings Inc. acquired the former subprime lender from Regions Financial Corp. for around $76 million. Later that year, EquiFirst agreed to acquire the technology assets of New Century Financial Corp. out of bankruptcy for $8 million.

In early 2007, EquiFirst declared it was the 12th largest U.S. nonprime wholesaler.

During the first-quarter 2008, EquiFirst originations were around $308 million, according to operating data reported by Barclays.

Headcount at EquiFirst was 1,400 as of the first-quarter 2007, Barclays reported.

On its Web site, the company previously touted FHA refinances, online uploading for loan applications and a 24-hour pricing and credit check engine.

In a recent message to stakeholders, EquiFirst Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey G. Tennyson explained that the company transitioned to FHA lending during the second-half 2008. He noted that 1,700 loans had been closed "in only a few short months" largely through the loyalty of its mortgage broker base.

"As we look to the future, there's no doubt in my mind that the mortgage crisis will come to an end," Tennyson said in the recent statement. "Before that time however, many things will change as we redefine our industry together."

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