|A subprime lender’s parent company, which was one of the original 12 companies to make up the Dow Jones Industrial Average, was voted the most admired company by more than 3,000 executives, directors and analysts.
FORTUNE magazine released its list of America’s Most Admired Companies 2007, which it refers to as “the definitive report card on corporate reputations.”
The full list, consisting of 306 companies, is based on the responses of 3,322 executives, directors and analysts across 63 industries who were asked to rank the 10 largest companies in their own industry on eight criteria: innovation, people management, use of corporate assets, social responsibility, quality of management, financial soundness, long-term investment and quality of products/services. Only the companies whose score ranked in the top half of its industry survey made the list.
The Top 20, a list of the overall Most Admired Companies, was based on the votes the 3,322 businesspeople gave when asked to select the 10 companies they admired most from any industry.
In the mortgage services industry, the most admired company was LandAmerica Financial Group. The company’s high industry score of 7.49 was due to placing first in six of the criteria and third in innovation and quality of products/services.
Washington Mutual placed second with a score of 7.27, followed by scores of less than 7 by Countrywide Financial, Steward Information Services and First American.
Mortgage services companies that were excluded from the list because they placed on the bottom half of their industry survey were Fidelity National Financial, IndyMac Bancorp, Sovereign Bancorp, Freddie Mac and New Century Financial.
Amongst megabanks and credit card companies, the most admired was American Express. The credit card company, which says it provides mortgages through American Express F.S.B., earned the top spot for scoring No. 1 in each of the criteria except in social responsibility and financial soundness, placing third in both of these criteria. The silver medal went to Bank of America, the bronze to Wells Fargo, and Wachovia and Citigroup followed.
Within super-regional banks, the blue ribbon went to Bank of New York for placing first in all eight criteria. The second through fifth spots were respectively taken by Northern Trust Corp., State Street, PNC Financial Services Group and M&T Bank Corp.
The most admired homebuilder was Centex, the parent of CTX Mortgage Co. The second-highest ranking went to Pulte Homes, followed by Lennar, Toll Brothers and KB Home.
General Motors, which has a 49-percent interest in Residential Capital-parent GMAC, placed fifth in the motor vehicle industry.
In the securities sector, the gold medal was taken by Lehman Brothers Holdings because it ranked the best in all eight criteria. Lehman provides financing for mortgage bankers and is also involved in mortgage securitizations.
EMC Mortgage Corp. parent Bear Stearns was the second-most admired, FORTUNE reported. Bear, which recently acquired the wholesale operations of ECC Capital Corp., was trailed by Avelo Mortgage LLC affilliate Goldman Sachs Group; Legg Mason; Saxon Capital Inc. parent Morgan Stanley; and Charles Schwab.
While Goldman did not top the securities sector it placed eighth out of all companies, making it one of four mortgage-related entities on the Top 20. Goldman, which last year placed 18th overall, plans to sink $1 billion into clean-energy investments, FORTUNE noted.
The megabanks and credit card companies winner, American Express, again placed 17th within the overall Top 20.
Berkshire Hathaway placed fourth on the Top 20 and once again walked off with the best ranking in the property and casualty insurance sector. The company is indirectly in the mortgage finance business through its unit Clayton Homes, the mobile home manufacturer that is parent to Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance and 21st Century Corp.
The magazine said Berkshire’s head, Warren Buffet, burnished the company’s reputation even more last June, when he announced plans to give away the bulk of his $40 billion fortune.
But for the second year in a row, the most admired out of all companies was General Electric, FORTUNE said, noting that GE is the only one of 12 companies Charles Dow chose to make up his original Dow Jones industrial average in 1896 that is still in the index.
GE, the parent of WMC Finance Co., has reportedly been named the most admired at least seven times.
“GE’s much-publicized ‘Ecomagination’ campaign is aimed at supercharging revenues while doubling its $700 million R&D budget to come up with solar-energy hybrid locomotives, lower-emission aircraft engines, more efficient lighting, and ever more sophisticated water-purification systems,” FORTUNE wrote. “Evidently conservation begins at home: GE cut its own energy bills by about $70 million last year, partly by installing new lighting in more than 100 of its plants, and reduced its greenhouse-gas emissions by about 150,000 tons.”
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