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Commercial Mortgage Bankers Meet in San Diego

MBA holds annual CREF conference

February 4, 2003

By CHRISTY ROBINSON


San Diego, Calif. -- In light of recent bad business practices, it is dangerous for regulatory bodies to react with vigilant, restrictive legislation that ultimately would be "harmful to local economies, harmful for the continuing creation of prosperous neighborhoods," said John A. Courson, chairman of the Mortgage Bankers Association of America (MBA), at the Commercial Real Estate Finance/Multifamily Housing Convention & Expo (CREF) on Monday. "We are keeping an eye on such backlash."

Courson's cautionary remarks, which run parallel to industry agitation over the Georgia Fair Lending Act, preceded the speech of William S. Cohen, keynote speaker and U.S. secretary of defense during the Clinton administration. Ann Hambly, chair of MBA's Commercial Real Estate/Multifamily Finance Board of Governors, gave introductory remarks.

At the CREF opening general session, Courson warned those in the commercial housing sector that negative public perception could be as damaging as a sticky-finger scandal like those in 2002.

"The recent failure of proper oversight from board of directors and big accounting firms can easily result in even more sectors [being] painted with the same brush as the evil CEOs," he said. "It would be easy for commercial real estate development to fall prey to this syndrome, for people to view it as big money that runs counter to the needs and wants of little people."

The reality is that commercial real estate helps create vital neighborhoods in which all people can thrive, he said.

After Hambly's introduction and a patriotic video salute featuring post-Sept. 11 resiliency and Lee Greenwood's "I'm Proud to be an American," Cohen took the podium before roughly one-quarter of the 4,000 expected for the convention.

Cohen, a regular commentator on CNN and NBC, spoke exclusively on current geopolitical matters.

He said it is necessary to station U.S. troops in countries like South Korea because "nature abhors a vacuum," and powers such as China could fill the vacuum if the United States does not. Cohen said, "We may one day return to the Stone Age on the gleaming wings of science," a quote by Winston Churchill that Cohen used to support the preemption doctrine and the need to account for weapons of mass destruction.

The general session, titled "Perils and Promise of the New World," concluded with a question-and-answer time. The former secretary of defense was asked what Secretary of State Colin Powell will need to present to the United Nations in order to bring France and Germany on board in support of an attack on Iraq. Cohen said the United States damages its argument when it says it has intelligence of a connection between al-Qaeda and Iraq, then presents no evidence of that intelligence. However, the United States doesn't want to present evidence because it could jeopardize its intelligence sources, and it must find a way around that conundrum.

"We will stay the course in the struggle against terrorism," he said. "We have the gold standard of military capability."

CREF runs through Wednesday at the San Diego Convention Center.

Christy Robinson is the editor of MortgageDaily.com. She received a bachelor's degree in news-editorial journalism from The University of Texas at Arlington. Her work has previously been published in The Dallas Morning News.

email Christy at: [email protected]


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