We have 18 months until the presidential election, and already things are heating up. The financial community is closely following Donald Trump's campaign, with the slogan is rumored to be: "We Shall Overcomb!" And if he runs and wins, there will be hell toupée.

Wake me up when this is over. Legislators have introduced a proposal to eliminate two companies (Fannie & Freddie) who have a government guarantee, and replace them with five private companies who will also have a government guarantee? What am I missing here? I need to finish my half-completed Jamba Juice application. TheFuture?.

And how do we mesh that with the stories in the news this morning? "Some Republican lawmakers, as well as other officials and insiders, are concerned that regulators implementing the Dodd-Frank Act are not resolving the problem that some financial institutions are 'too big to fail.'

Regulators told the Senate banking committee that they are dealing with the issue. 'A major thrust of the Dodd-Frank Act is addressing the too-big-to-fail problem and mitigating the threat to financial stability posed by systemically important financial firms,' said Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke." On top of that, "Several top regulatory positions will be vacant or filled by caretakers when financial regulators next meet to discuss their progress toward changing regulations for the financial industry. The White House has not announced plans to fill several positions, including chairmanship of the Financial Deposit Insurance Corp." And lastly, "Sheila Bair, chairman of the FDIC, said major financial institutions should be subject to higher capital requirements than proposed. Bair wants the big banks to prove that winding them down would not be a problem if they become insolvent. 'I believe we should impose even higher capital charges on systemic entities until they have developed a resolution plan which has been approved as credible by their regulators,' Bair said."

When I speak to various groups, I remind them of the role that the rating agencies have had in the credit crisis, as there is certainly plenty of blame to go around. Investors have been trying desperately in recent years to force credit rating agencies to answer for at least some of the severe losses suffered in the wake of the mortgage meltdown, but that became much harder following a ruling yesterday by the Second Circuit. It held that Moody's, Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings can't be held liable for their ratings of mortgage-backed securities. In a story in the Wall Street Journal, the court said that ratings firms provided "merely opinions" about the credit-worthiness of mortgage- backed securities, and such opinions are entitled to First Amendment protection. "But perhaps all is not lost for investors...investors have sued rating agencies under different theories, including negligence and negligent interference with prospective economic advantage. And these sorts of claims are not affected by the Second Circuit's ruling."

Here is a quick licensing update regarding the Mortgage Call Report. "Will NMLS place a deficiency on our company license if we don't complete the Q1 MCR filing by May 15?" The answer is, "No. Due to the truncated time period between the launch of functionality and the deadline for the Q1 MCR filing, the system will not begin applying license deficiencies related to the Q1 MCR until June 16."

Coester Appraisal Group, a nationwide appraisal management company, has launched a 100% repurchase guarantee program that protects its clients against appraisal based buybacks. "Coester Appraisal Group will guarantee all original appraisals it completes moving forward. The guarantee is applicable for any appraisal-based repurchase request as long as the loan is in good current standing and not in any stage of delinquency." For details (and no this isn't a paid announcement) go to CoesterAppraisals.

The program appears to be similar to a program that Wells Fargo may be rolling out, titled "Collateral Valuation Warranty Program." "Determining collateral value is an integral and key component of the mortgage loan underwriting process.  The accuracy of the valuation is essential for the lender to properly assess the collateral property pledged as security for the mortgage loan and for determining the Loan-to-Value ratio.  Insuring various methods of valuation by a warranty, and backed by an Errors & Omissions insurance policy, provides added assurance of the correct value to the investment community. The warranty comes in the form a Service Agreement between appraisal vendor and lending institution, in which the carrier indemnifies the appraisal vendor for accuracy of the actual value as of the date of the report. The appraisal vendor has obtained an Errors & Omissions policy that covers losses from claims filed against them as a result of an error in the property value that results in lender loss."

One reader wrote, "Guarantees like this would extend to certain loans, as collateral is only a portion of the credit decision - even if they claim it's an 'appraisal based repurchase.' I do not think I would offer this guarantee on anything over 65% LTV given the volatile conditions that prevail in most housing markets. Any company offering a guarantee like these must have plenty of business rules and good screening in place before a deal is eligible for this kind of guarantee, I would think the requirements are pretty stringent."

For company news, Discover Financial Services has agreed to buy, for about $56 million, the mortgage assets of Home Loan Center, a unit of Tree.com Inc. Discover is primarily a credit card lender but is looking to boost its revenue - and what better way than in mortgage originations? Tree.com reported its first-quarter loss widened as selling and marketing expenses jumped, and revenue fell 25% to $33.4 million.

Ellie Mae (owner of LOS Encompass) first-quarter loss narrowed on higher revenue and margin. Ellie makes money through fees not only from originators but also from lenders and servicers who book business through the network, although in the latest period Ellie Mae posted a loss of $799,000, compared with a year-earlier loss of $1.6 million. Revenue increased 19% to $10.6 million, gross margin rose to 68.3% from 65.4%, and active Encompass lenders were up 18%.

Freddie announced that their poll shows 30-yr mortgage rates are at their lowest level of the year. (One leading economist told me that, basically, it is probably more important to pay attention to the trend in Freddie's weekly numbers rather than the number itself.) And although many resetting ARM loans are actually seeing their rates drop, some pickup in refinancing activity is expected. On the other hand, refi activity remains constrained by tight credit conditions, continued weak or even stable home values, higher LLPAs (loan level pricing adjustments), and reduced competition amongst originators.

The guys were all at a deer camp. No one wanted to room with Bob, because he snored so badly. They decided it wasn't fair to make one of them stay with him the whole time, so they voted to take turns.

The first guy slept with Bob and comes to breakfast the next morning with his hair a mess and his eyes all bloodshot. They said, "Man, what happened to you?" He said, "Bob snored so loudly, I just sat up and watched him all night."

The next night it was a different guy's turn. In the morning, same thing, hair all standing up, eyes all bloodshot. They said, "Man, what happened to you? You look awful! He said, 'Man, that Bob shakes the roof with his snoring. I watched him all night."

The third night was Fred's turn. Fred was a tanned, older cowboy, a man's man. The next morning he came to breakfast bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. "Good morning!" he said. They couldn't believe it. They said, "Man, what happened?"

He said, "Well, we got ready for bed... I went and tucked Bob into bed, patted him on the rump, and kissed him good night. Bob sat up and watched me all night."

If you're interested, visit my twice-a-month blog at the STRATMOR Group web site located at www.stratmorgroup.com . The current blog considers the near and longer-term outlook for jumbo lending.  If you have both the time and inclination make a comment on what I have written, or on other comments so that folks can learn what's going on out there from the other readers.