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Getting Back in Gear Conference

The negative spillovers from stalled and vacant foreclosures – a longstanding problem for many municipalities, servicers, courts, and homeowners – are well documented. The homes often fall into disrepair, neighboring home values fall, crime rises and, when too many such homes are present, the fabric of a neighborhood begins to deteriorate. In some cases property values fall so far that foreclosures are abandoned, leaving no one with an interest in the property – the owner or the lender – to care for it. Even when foreclosures are not abandoned, the amount of time loans are spending in delinquency and foreclosure has been constantly rising.

This problem is spreading, despite recent strength in the housing market. Once confined to weaker markets and older industrial cities, stalled and vacant foreclosures are now being witnessed on a broader scale. Fortunately, cities that have dealt with this issue for years have gained valuable insights and, in some cases, successes along the way.

On March 11 the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland is hosting a one-day seminar to explore the challenge of stalled and vacant foreclosures. We'll define the problem, discuss promising approaches to it, and dissect examples of successfully dealing with stalled and vacant foreclosures in order to replicate these practices elsewhere. The agenda, featuring national and regional experts on four panels, will examine the issue from distinct perspectives:

  • Challenges facing servicers
  • Local responses
  • The role of federal oversight and compliance
  • Judicial practices that are helping

Who should attend? Getting Back in Gear: Better Ways to Move Stalled and Vacant Foreclosures Forward is aimed at municipal leaders, lenders and servicers, community development practitioners, foreclosure attorneys, foreclosure judges, regulators, housing researchers, and real estate professionals.


8:00 — 9:00 AM Continental Breakfast & Registration
9:00 - 9:15 AM Welcome & Introductory Remarks

   – Richard Berner, Director, Office of Financial Research
   – Loretta J. Mester, President and Chief Executive Officer, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland

9:15 - 10:00 AM Panel 1: Defining Delayed & Abandoned Foreclosures

In this opening panel, two experts will discuss the challenges of and methodologies for identifying stalled and vacant foreclosures at the local and national level. They’ll arrive at a common definition for stalled and vacant foreclosures, as well as describe the contradictory trends of foreclosure durations increasing while foreclosure starts and loans in foreclosure are declining.

Daren Blomquist, Vice President, RealtyTrac  
A. Nicole Clowers, Director, Government Accounting Office 
Thomas Fitzpatrick, Economist, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland
10:00 — 11:15 AM Panel 2: Servicers’ Challenges and Responses to Date

This panel will explore the challenges servicers face moving properties through the foreclosure process and dealing with vacant properties in foreclosure. Panelists will discuss programs and methods their respective organizations have created to address those challenges, and potential areas for reform.

Michele B. McCoy, Sr. Vice President -Default Servicing, Fifth Third Bank  
Mark Seifert, Vice President, Community Relations and Housing Authority, Ocwen Financial 
Tyler Smith, Vice President, REO and Community Development, Wells Fargo 
Peter Skillern, Executive Director, Reinvestment Partners
11:30 — 12:45 pm Panel 3: Local Responses to Stalled and Vacant Foreclosures

What can we learn from communities that have contended with these properties for a long time? Panelists will highlight communities’ responses to, and insights gained from dealing with, stalled and vacant foreclosures, as well as national resources available to help communities with limited resources in place. The panel draws from experiences in Chicago and Cleveland, both of which have been wrestling with vacant, low-value property for many years.

Spencer Cowan, Vice President for Research, Woodstock Institute  
Frank Ford, Senior Policy Advisor, Thriving Communities Institute  
Gus Frangos, President, Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corporation 
Craig Nickerson, President, National Community Stabilization Trust 
Jen Leonard, Vice President and Director of Advocacy & Outreach, Center for Community Progress
12:45 – 2:00 PM Lunch & Panel 4: Federal Oversight and Compliance

Regulators with national jurisdiction will discuss the risks posed by stalled and vacant foreclosures, along with broad-based efforts to mitigate these risks and whether there is room for additional federal action.

Joseph Firshein, Deputy Associate Director and Community Affairs Officer, Federal Reserve Board of Governors 
Laurie Maggiano, Servicing and Secondary Markets Program Manager, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) 
Damon Smith, Principal Deputy General Counsel, US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) 
Barry Wides, Deputy Comptroller, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) 
Paul Kaboth, Vice President and Community Development Officer, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland
2:15 – 3:30 PM Panel 5: Judicial Perspectives on Expediting Foreclosures

The judges and magistrates who oversee the foreclosure process have seen their dockets swell in recent years. As a result, many courts report enormous backlogs and sometimes-long delays in the adjudication of cases. This final session will explore how some court officials are dealing with the increased workload, including their attempts to mitigate the impact of delays.

Steve Bucha, Chief Magistrate, Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas 
Michael McKeever, Esq., CEO, KML Law Group  
Barbara Reitzloff, Chief Magistrate of the Cleveland Municipal Housing Court 
Alan White, Professor, CUNY School of Law


Daren Blomquist is vice president of RealtyTrac, where he is the resident expert on foreclosure statistics and is responsible for the creation of the company's US foreclosure market and sales reports. In this role, Blomquist interfaces with numerous government agencies at the national, state, and local levels. He is also RealtyTrac's primary media spokesperson. Blomquist has been cited by the New York Times, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal, has been a contributor on numerous national television networks, and is a frequent speaker at industry events. He holds a degree in English communications from Trinity International University. 

Steve Bucha is the chief magistrate of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, General Division, where he is responsible for the management of the department's staff and a large docket of foreclosure, quiet title, and partition cases. He has been a magistrate since 1998 and chief magistrate since 2001. Bucha is a member of the faculty of the Ohio Judicial College. Prior to his current position, Bucha served as a staff attorney for the Honorable Burt W. Griffin and the Honorable Richard J. McMonagle, and was an associate with the law firm of Abraham Cantor and Associates. He holds a BS in management from Case Western Reserve University and a JD from Cleveland–Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University. 

A. Nicole Clowers is a director at the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), where she is responsible for developing and leading a portfolio of work on financial markets and community investment programs. Most recently, she has led evaluations examining the establishing of the Financial Stability Oversight Council and the Office of Financial Research; the impact of Dodd-Frank regulations; the federal government's financial assistance to the auto industry; alternative compensation models for credit-rating agencies; and the SEC's personnel management system. She is also responsible for co-leading GAO's reports on duplication, fragmentation, and overlap across the government. Clowers holds a master's degree in public administration from the University of Georgia and a bachelor's degree in political science from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. 

Spencer Cowan is vice president for research at Woodstock Institute, where he has published reports on negative equity in communities of color, access to employment-based retirement savings plans in Illinois, and disparities in mortgage lending to women. Previously, Cowan was senior research associate at the Center for Urban and Regional Studies at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. Prior to working as a researcher, Cowan practiced law, worked as a management consultant for privately held companies, and served as a county zoning board administrator. Cowan holds a PhD in city planning from UNC at Chapel Hill, an MA in urban and regional planning from the University of Florida, a JD from Boston University School of Law, and an AB from Columbia University. 

Joseph Firschein is deputy associate director and community affairs officer in the Division of Consumer and Community Affairs at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. He is responsible for advising the Board of Governors on community and economic development policy issues, working with the 12 Federal Reserve Banks to advance their community development activities, and leading the Board of Governors' Consumer Advisory Council. Previously, Firschein was a director in Fannie Mae's Housing and Community Development Division. Prior to joining Fannie Mae, he managed lending to community development financial institutions at the US Treasury Department's Community Development Financial Institutions Fund. Firschein holds an MBA in finance from the University of Maryland, an MPP from the University of California, Berkeley, and a BA in psychology from Stanford University.

Thomas Fitzpatrick is an economist in the Community Development Department at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. He conducts applied research and outreach examining how governments, nonprofits, developers, and consumers address low-value property, and how regulations shape the interaction between consumers and financial markets. Previously, he was a research associate and visiting scholar at the Cleveland Fed. He has also worked as an investment advisor in the retirement plan industry. Fitzpatrick serves on the board of directors of the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corporation and the board of trustees of the Cleveland chapter of the National Association of Business Economists. He is also a member of the Ohio Bar Association. Fitzpatrick received a JD from Cleveland–Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University and a bachelor's degree from the College of Wooster.

Frank Ford is senior policy advisor at Thriving Communities Institute, a program of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy. He also serves as the chair of the Cuyahoga Vacant and Abandoned Property Action Council and is a licensed attorney who has worked in the community development field for 37 years. Previously, Ford was senior vice president for research and development at Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, where he led foreclosure response, abandoned property, and neighborhood stabilization initiatives. Ford was associate director at the Colorado Center For Community Development at the University of Colorado. He also served as executive director of the Union–Miles Development Corporation in Cleveland, Ohio. Ford holds a bachelor's degree from Kenyon College and a law degree from Case Western Reserve University School of Law. 

Gus Frangos is the president and general counsel of the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corporation. His areas of legal concentration include land-related issues, as well as commercial real estate, zoning, administrative, and business transactional law. Previously, Frangos was retained by the Cuyahoga County Treasurer to craft legislation to help expedite the tax foreclosure process, specifically on vacant and abandoned properties. He was the primary drafter of Ohio's House Bill 294 establishing enhanced-capacity county land banks and expedited administrative tax foreclosure policy. Frangos was appointed as a magistrate judge in the Cleveland Municipal Court in 1993. From 1986 to 1993, he served as a Cleveland city councilman, where he sponsored and passed an array of community development legislation. Frangos holds a JD from Cleveland–Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University.

Paul Kaboth is vice president of the Community Development Department of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. His responsibilities include strategic oversight of the department's work on a range of consumer credit, community reinvestment, and asset-building issues with the Bank's Research and Supervision and Regulation Departments. He also directs research, outreach, and public programs that promote fair and impartial access to credit in the Fourth Federal Reserve District. Kaboth began his career with the Bank in 1986 as a bank examiner. Prior to assuming his current role, he held oversight responsibility for specialty examinations related to risk management in the areas of credit, markets and liquidity, operations, and corporate compliance. Kaboth holds a bachelor's degree in business administration from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

Jennifer Leonard is the vice president and director of national leadership and education for the Center for Community Progress, where she oversees a range of activities to help mobilize cross jurisdictional problem-solving, learning, and collaboration. Prior to co-founding Community Progress, Leonard was the director of the National Vacant Properties Campaign at Smart Growth America, where she helped reframe the way the public viewed the revitalization potential of vacant and abandoned properties. Previously, she was the housing project manager for People's Homesteading Group in Baltimore, Maryland. Leonard holds a BFA from the University of Arizona and an MA in city and regional planning from the University of Pennsylvania.

Laurie Maggiano is program manager for servicing and secondary markets in the Division of Research, Markets, and Regulations of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Prior to joining the CFPB, Maggiano served as the director of policy in the Office of Homeownership Preservation at the US Treasury Department, where she was one of the principal architects of the Making Home Affordable program. Previously, Maggiano managed servicing policy at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Additionally, she spent 20 years in the private sector as a senior vice president for two major mortgage banks. Maggiano was honored with a lifetime achievement award for Leadership in Mortgage Servicing in 2011, and was twice named a Woman of Influence in the mortgage industry, by Housing Wire magazine.

Michele McCoy is the senior vice president and director of default servicing for Fifth Third Bank, where she is responsible for bankruptcy, foreclosure, REO, post-sale claims, property preservation, valuations, quality, compliance, charge-off, and collections support. McCoy has been in the REO and default servicing industry since 1985 and has worked with several major banks and services including Citi Financial, Bank One, and National City. She is on the steering committee for the Consumer Leadership Program at Fifth Third Bank. McCoy is also active in the Fifth Third Women's Network. She currently serves on the Financial Institution Advisory Subcommittee on Foreclosure with the Ohio Banker's League. McCoy holds a BS from the University of Colorado Boulder. 

Michael McKeever is the founding shareholder and chief executive officer of the KML Law Group. He has served as a member and board member in various mortgage-related industry groups, including the National Foreclosure Professionals, the American Legal and Financial Network, the Legal League 100, and REOMAC. McKeever is a frequent lecturer and has written articles on creditors' rights within the default mortgage industry. He has testified before the US Senate and the Pennsylvania Legislature and has been a presenting lecturer for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. He is a founding member of the Philadelphia Mortgage Foreclosure Steering Committee and was appointed by Mayor Michael Nutter to the Philadelphia Sheriff's Advisory Board. McKeever received his law degree from Villanova University School of Law and his undergraduate degree from Fairfield University. 

Craig Nickerson is president of the National Community Stabilization Trust, which helps localities by increasing access to foreclosed property and improving access to financing from participating financial institutions. Prior to his current position, Nickerson was vice president of expanding markets for Freddie Mac. He was previously national director of housing rehabilitation at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Nickerson also served as executive director of the City of Boston's Office of Housing, president and chief executive officer of Community Development Financial Corporation, and president of the Nickerson Group. He holds a bachelor's degree in business administration from Marietta College and a master's degree in urban affairs from Boston University.

Barbara Reitzloff is the chief magistrate of the Housing Division of Cleveland Municipal Court for Judge Raymond L. Pianka. She has served as a housing court magistrate since 1991 and as chief magistrate since 1995. Prior to her role with the housing court, Reitzloff was a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. Reitzloff received her law degree from the University of Michigan Law School and her bachelor's degree from the University of Detroit. 

Mark Seifert is vice president for community relations at Ocwen Financial Corporation. Prior to joining Ocwen, Seifert was the executive director of Empowering and Strengthening Ohio's People (ESOP). Under his direction, the organization grew from a staff of three to a staff of 55 in 12 offices around Ohio and became nationally recognized for its work on predatory lending and foreclosure prevention. ESOP's model combined direct action organizing to partner with lenders and cutting-edge housing counseling to execute those partnership agreements. Seifert holds a BA in urban planning from Cleveland State University and a JD from the Cleveland–Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University.

Peter Skillern is executive director of Reinvestment Partners, a nonprofit advocacy and community development agency. He holds active North Carolina licenses as a real estate broker and general contractor. Skillern has testified before the US House and Senate Banking Committees. He is a member of the Eisenhower Fellows and William Friday Fellows leadership programs, and has won awards for his contributions to civil rights and financial literacy from the National Fair Housing Alliance and the National Association of Realtors, respectively. Skillern is currently focused on the challenges that bank walk-aways pose on the local and national levels. He holds a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a master's degree in city and regional planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Damon Smith is acting general counsel for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Previously, Smith served as principal deputy general counsel and acting associate general counsel for insured housing. Prior to joining HUD, Smith was an associate professor at Rutgers School of Law–Camden and as a visiting professor at American University's Washington College of Law. He was also an associate with Arnold and Porter LLP and the founding director of the University of Illinois' East St. Louis Neighborhood Technical Assistance Center. Smith holds a bachelor's degree in English and a master's degree in urban planning from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, as well as a law degree from Harvard Law School.

Tyler Smith is the vice president of REO Community Development for Premiere Asset Services, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage's REO disposition team. Smith's teams manage the donation of properties to nonprofit organizations and government entities. Since 2009, they have discounted or donated over 9,000 bank-owned homes to qualified nonprofits. Smith has over 19 years of experience in the mortgage industry, seven of which have been with Wells Fargo. He holds a BA in economics from Simpson College. 

Alan White is a professor at CUNY School of Law, where he teaches bankruptcy and contracts, as well as consumer, commercial, and comparative private law. He is a past member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System's Consumer Advisory Council, a member of the American Law Institute, and currently serves as reporter for the Uniform Law Commission's project on a uniform residential real estate foreclosure statute. White was previously a supervising attorney at Community Legal Services, Inc., in Philadelphia, a fellow and consultant with the National Consumer Law Center in Boston, and an adjunct professor with Temple University Law School and Drake University School of Law. He holds a BS from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a JD from the New York University School of Law.

Barry Wides is the deputy comptroller for community affairs at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), where he leads a department of community development professionals in Washington, DC, and the OCC districts. Prior to joining the OCC in 1999, Wides was director of affordable housing sales at Freddie Mac, where he led a nationwide sales team responsible for developing products and strategies to achieve the company's Congressionally mandated affordable-housing goals. Wides began his career as a presidential management intern and budget examiner at the Office of Management and Budget. He is a certified public accountant and holds a BS in accounting and an MBA from Indiana University.