Special Servicers Face Criticism for Lean Results From Real Estate Workouts

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, special servicers are being criticized by investors and analysts for cutting bad deals with borrowers and failing to disclose conflicts. The article cites a report from Deutsche Bank analyst Harris Trifon as the latest critique, which describes 12 large commercial real estate loan workouts that Trifon calls “the poster children for questionable behavior.” The special servicers have defended themselves saying they have cut the best deals possible and denying any conflicts of interest, according to the Journal report. Of course, it's easy to play Monday morning quarterback and question whether better terms could have been negotiated without any insight into the circumstances and little or no knowledge of how the negotiations unfolded. As in any negotiation, there is give and take, and the final deal may not be ideal from either side. This is the nature of compromise. However, to an outsider looking in, having no knowledge of the content of the negotiations, it may not be surprising that investors and analysts have reacted how they have. And therein lies the problem. In many cases, the investors do not have access to all the relevant information. The solution: more transparency. “We have got to dispel all the myths about workouts,” Toby Cobb, co-chief executive at LNR Property told the Journal. The article goes on to describe how special servicing companies have been working with investors to create new disclosure guidelines, which they hope to complete by the end of the summer. Indeed, the analysts in particular could benefit from more information. Included on Trifon's list was the modification of a $209 million loan for a pair of Westin hotels that extended the mortgage by 15 years and cut the interest rate to zero. As discussed here, that modification was required by an order of the bankruptcy court.