Tuesday, June 26, 2007


It's official. It's decided.

I'm on vacation.

:-O !!! Hey! Wait a minnit! Just how can I be on vacation if I don't actually work?!?

Easy answer. I'm on vacation from my regular life.

No duties. No responsibilities. Minimal medical fuss. (relatively speaking, of course.)

When I worked liquidating the failed banks, handling a way over-specs portfolio of the messiest delinquent commercial loans and beat-up real estate owned, people would ask me sometimes what my favorite part of the job was.

You see, the profession of *bankbuster,* *liquidator,* *commercial loan workout specialist,* *contrarian asset manager,* whatever they call us at whatever time it smells just as sweet - that profession is both emotionally stressful, and multi-disciplinary, to great extremes. It's a job that many apparently qualified folks simply can't handle.

Every now and then, we'd get a New Guy in, a banker perhaps. Someone in a nice suit with a respectable resume. They'd come to work and get their first portfolio on a Monday. They'd look that portfolio over, maybe read some loan files, field a few phone calls. They'd watch and listen to the rest of us buzzing about, dealing with the constant emergencies, *putting out fires* - the day-to-day norm of our work - and talking in our impenetrable jargon, just like others do in their own professions.

After a couple of days of work, they'd suddenly and quietly disappear off into the sunset. This often occurred on a Wednesday.

Frequently they'd leave no forwarding information. No address. No phone number. They wouldn't even pick up their two-day paycheck for the time they'd worked.

Their poor abandoned portfolio would float around in the Black Hole of orphaned portfolios for awhile. Maybe a piece or two, some particularly egregious accounts, would get parceled out to some of us for temporary custody. You know. Accounts with serious problems that need a lot of intense management as of yesterday? Yes. You can just hear the groans and sighs of us long-suffering, already overburdened asset managers as we spied a new foundling on our doorstep, can't you?

Then we'd entertain ourselves making up and trading rumors about where that Disappeared Asset Manager landed. One extremely large person, dubbed *Earthquake* due to his great poundage, was especially fun. A sneaky bcc-type memo would pop up from no one in particular, circulate throughout Major Assets, maybe even trickle its way down to Auto Loans. *New Sighting! Earthquake's been spotted in ______ [state] doing [_____]* - something that had NOTHING to do with failed banks or even finance, of course…

Eventually, perhaps several months down the line, we might actually even find them. (I mean, we did a lot of skip-tracing of delinquent borrowers. We knew how to find an escaped former coworker pretty fast, if we really wanted to.) We'd *volunteer* some one of us to call that truant up to say, --Hi! Hey, howya doin'? how's the weather out there?-- But they'd shy away from their phone like a spooked horse, wouldn't even take our friendly call. heh!

Multidisciplinary. No individual person could be great at every possible aspect of our work. That meant that as co-workers, we were all far better off if we truly were a team. We'd ask and answer questions and get advice from each other.

Here's a brief overview of a few of the subjects we needed a good general acquaintance with: negotiation, banking, financial analysis, real estate management, real estate repair and rehab, forms of business ownership, discovering the *real* people behind closely-held corporations and/or partnerships, determining both personal and non-human financial liability for loans and guarantees, PMI, VA and HUD mortgage guarantee and/or insurance programs, fiduciary responsibilities, accounting, insurance on property, Errors & Omissions (E&O), Directors and Officers (D&O), and more, civil and criminal law, real estate and banking law, bankruptcy law, asset searches, fraud investigation, zoning, construction loan disbursements, the peculiarities of programs like UDAG grants, property inspections, real estate title issues, negotiation, local government laws and rules and regulations on everything from grass-cutting liens to maintenance of roads in abandoned developments, market analysis, employment and economic analysis, appraisal analysis, inheritance, HOAs and condo boards, laws and regulations on seizures of everything from real estate to chattels to bank accounts, foreclosure, every type of bankruptcy under the sun, long-arm statutes for collection across state lines, how to drop everything you're doing and answer a *congressional* (inquiry), real estate tax deed redemption, negotiation, post-foreclosure deficiency, income taxes whether personal, business, or non-profit, financial analyses and resolutions for religious entities, alternative uses for such properties as abandoned churches, skip tracing, marketing, real estate sales, taking depositions, discovery, government bidding procedures for appraisals and engineering studies and title disputes and the like, auctions, dealing with hazardous materials found on properties owned, pledged or seized, our legal *delegation of authority* rules strictly governing our roles as government banking officers, quoting chapter and verse of *The Bible* (meaning, the Credit Manual), how to write all this up and present it to Committee for approval, how to actually get that approval - without which, of course, one could resolve nothing at all - and did I say negotiation?...

I loved to bury myself in some particularly messy account. Something consisting of, say, $5.22 M book value but only $323,000 current value, contained in two entire upright file cabinets, construction loan disbursements after *inspections* certifying the work was x% complete - even though it was still underwater swampland to this day, and where the heck did those phony photos come from anyway?, heh! - and with ownership interests by eight now-defunct corporations including one s-corp, plus a general partnership and two limited partnerships; but secured only by the low-value real estate, two corporations, five personal guarantees including two by wives who had no idea what they were signing - which is no excuse from liability but is a bit pitiful sometimes - and one by a so-called farmer (who was also, incidentally, a former bank board member) using his 5-acre non-farm house plot to hide behind a Chapter 12 (farmer's) *cramdown* bankruptcy, and two worthless third mortgages, one on a corporate president's house and the other on a corporate treasurer's house; and yes the General Partner's liable too, even if the fool still thinks he's exempt just because he neither guaranteed it nor signed as an individual, but what the heck did he think General Partner means anyway, that's pretty basic law there, if you wanna be a limited partner then don't be a General Partner...

and a week later I'd come up for air, my fancy silk business suit all covered with cobwebs and dust, and me all covered with paper cuts and a sly grin, to gleefully announce I'd found a good and viable $100,000 avenue of collection others had missed for the last two years of resolution attempts because it was SO buried in that paperwork...

I loved that job, myself. This was clear and obvious to everyone around me. Asking me what my *favorite* part of the job was, that made sense. It was a real curiosity. I could see that.

My answer?


I LOVE vacation!


Desert Cat said...

That is one MIGHTY resume, my dear. If you had the health to support your endeavor, there is no reason you could not become a filthy rich real estate mogul with that background.

Doom said...

Me, I like your favorite part of the job. Then again, for us, isn't 'life' now our job? *laughs*

I hope your vacation is a splendid one.

Nancy said...

hooray for vacations.

and, hooray for a too long vacation ending. 'Pup started his new job yesterday!!

Anonymous said...

"We'd *volunteer* some one of us to call that truant up to say, --Hi! Hey, howya doin'? how's the weather out there?-- But they'd shy away from their phone like a spooked horse, wouldn't even take our friendly call. heh!"

K, here I was thinking you were all sweetness and light, but I see had?/have? a mean streak! *grin*

Oh, and yeah, Viva le vacations!

pepektheassassin said...

Ditto! :)

sue said...

This is hard for me to write. I admire your work ethic and efficiency and all the great stuff you did. I think there is a perfect job for everyone and it seems you found yours. Having said that, we farm and back in the mid-80's (during the "farm crisis") our bank got closed... one of the last in our area. It turned out a few years down the road that the "powers that be" actually admitted they'd "jumped the gun" and closed ours a bit prematurely. Although we still farm, it was quite a hardship at the time and gave my father-in-law his second heart attack (at a very young age). He died about 10 years later of a third heart attack. I think what you did was a valuable and necessary job - I just wish I hadn't had such close personal experience with it. :)

k said...

Ah, Desert Cat. To feel the incompetence brought on by illness, hard on the heels of that feeling of personal and physical prowess? And to watch what could have been just melt away like ice in springtime? Yeah.

But oddly enough, there was always one thing lacking: I've never wanted to be rich. In fact, as a goal, that was always suspect to me.

Now, financial competence has a different meaning. I need that to properly take care of my health issues. And these days, I think I can manage to be financially independent without letting money control me. After all this time I feel ready to do that.

So as we work through paying off the accumulation of old business and medical debt, and later maybe finally be free to try to build investments instead, I think maybe things will be different down the road.

Doom, one thing I've come to see is how being sick and disabled is a full-time job! And, thanks. I think this vacation thing is just great, and Livey and I get on very well together.

Nancy, congratulations!!! That's the BEST news! Sometimes the only thing worse than too much work is too little.

Hi Morris! Well. I personally LIKE sweetness and light, myself. Seems to me that's a good way to live. A happy way.

But however...a little gentle dig here and there is only human. And in our line of work, we tend to develop a strong sense of morgue humor.

You may find, over time, that I also have a strong streak of deviousness. Add to that, a powerful drive to set things right when I see people wronged. I can be both fierce and implacable in a way that, for reasons I don't entirely understand, seems to shock those around me.

While I was always courteous when talking to the real white-collar criminals in our work - pre-jail time, I mean - I never, ever held back on my opinions about their ultimate destination. Oddly enough, most of them seemed to respect that. Those phone conversations tended to amuse my coworkers if they overheard.

Rest assured, I only use my powers sparingly, and for good.

er...I hope. ;-)

Miss Assassin, you are a FINE vacation appreciator, yourself. Great style, there!


Part of the reason the work we did was so emotionally fraught was precisely because of situations like you're describing.

I worked for a private contractor to FSLIC, FSLIC itself ("as receiver"), the world's biggest bank under a government management contract for a failed S&L, and the FDIC. So I've seen many different perspectives, different takes, on all this.

One day a coworker said to me: --You take all this seriously, don't you?

I thought for a few minutes and replied: --I take the WORK very seriously. I don't take the GOVERNMENT seriously.

What we were talking about was this: The role our employer played was one we frequently, and deeply, disagreed with. There was an element of vindictiveness in what they did that was entirely inappropriate. There was also a heavy-handed readiness to put *action* before *thought.*

Those two drives were political in nature. They were form over substance. What made us so very troubled was that we could see this hurt HUMAN BEINGS. And those *powers that be* acted like that did not matter.

To do my work in that environment meant certain special things. For one, I learned - then always remembered - that just because a person is behind on a loan with a failed institution does NOT mean they're a bad person.

And, that the whole liquidation bureaucracy was terribly mismanaged. Many times I picked up a file where the borrower had been trying to contact an asset manager with a request to do a workout for TWO YEARS, and no one had ever even returned their phone calls.

Even worse? Many of the problems were the direct result of the agencies' actions. Here's just one example: before the crises hit, they'd focused on encouraging the institutions they insured to make riskier loans for the sake of higher returns. Some loan officers became predatory in their approach to excessive lending to farmers.

To my friends and family that couldn't understand how someone like me could be a bureaucrat at all, I'd tell them that to be able to function well and humanely in that environment - to do a good job - was a worthy goal and a genuine accomplishment.

Helping to shield innocents from that structure was a high priority in my approach. I saw many cases of unjust damage done to people like your family. I could tell you stories of them all day and all night.

Because, you see, I've never forgotten and never will.

For what it's worth, please know that me, and many of my associates, are very sorry for what happened to you and others like you. It was absolutely wrong. There's no way I can do anything to set it right. All I can do at this juncture is offer you my sincere and profound apologies.

And try to make clear that what you and others like you suffered did not go unnoticed.

sue said...

Thank you for that. It meant a lot.

k said...

Sue, you're more than welcome. It meant a lot to me to be able to say that to a person who went through it all, from the other side - and then told me your story with such graciousness. Many in your shoes could not have done that.

And, btw: It was during the same time period. I worked in liquidations from 1985 - 1991, when I became too sick to work full-time, then some similar temp jobs for the next year or two.

I never did any ag loan work, myself, although some of my peers had, mostly from an old St. Joe, Missouri office. They told me how that was, and I learned from inner-office news too. There was a great deal of wrong done out there, including a lot of really ignorant asset management.

It's good that at least you and your husband can still farm. I'm so glad that was not taken away from you.

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