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Billionaire Hires Fannie/Freddie Regulator

The billionaire behind American Home Mortgage Servicing Inc. has hired the regulator who oversaw the seizure of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It’s the third time this week that the private sector has plucked political appointees who were prominently placed in high-ranking government positions.

The billionaire is Wilbur Ross and the regulator is James B. Lockhart III, director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Lockhart was hired as the vice chairman of WL Ross & Co. LLC, a press release today said. The distressed investment unit indirectly owns American Home and is a affiliate of Invesco Ltd.

Lockhart, who oversaw the September 2008 collapse of Fannie and Freddie, was appointed director of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight in 2006 by President George W. Bush. The agency, which attempted to regulate the two government-sponsored Mammoths, was dissolved as part of H.R. 3221, The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, and Lockhart took over as director of its successor — the Federal Housing Finance Agency — in July 2008.

photo of James B. Lockhart

In light of Lockhart’s departure, FHFA Chief Operating Officer Ed DeMarco was named acting director of the agency – which also regulates the Federal Home Loan Banks.

Before his job regulating Fannie and Freddie, Lockhart was deputy commissioner and chief operating officer of the Social Security Administration and served in the George H.W. Bush administration as executive director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.

He obtained a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration.

“With his extensive government experience, deep knowledge of the U.S. mortgage markets and strong background in public/private finance, Jim is ideally qualified to help expand the financial services portfolio of the funds we manage,” Ross — chairman of WL Ross & Co. and Lockhart’s new boss — said in the announcement. “.Our investment team will benefit from Jim’s unique insights into the U.S. mortgage markets, which will help us expand the compelling investment opportunities.”

Yesterday, Joseph Murin — who was appointed chief executive officer of Ginnie Mae by President George W. Bush in 2008 — and Brian Montgomery — also a Bush appointee who was FHA commissioner from June 2005 until last month — announced they were two of four managing directors at The Collingwood Group LLC.

The Washington, D.C.-based company said it hopes to capitalize on the need for such firms to work more closely with the federal government as the regulatory environment continues to change.

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