The State of Arizona moved in last week to assume control of PMI Mortgage Insurance, one of the two shareholding companies of CUNA Mutual Group Mortgage Insurance, the leading mortgage insurer for credit unions in the U.S.
In its Oct. 20 order, the Superior Court for the State of Arizona gave the state's Department of Insurance the “full and exclusive power of management and control” of the company pending a hearing on the appointment of a receiver for the company.
The move came as the latest in series of regulatory measures taken to address the firm, which has lost millions of dollars in the wake of the real estate crisis. Regulators had previously shut down the firm's ability to write new policies and after the firm's capital fell below regulatory requirements.
CUNA Mutual Mortgage Insurance executives made it clear in a press release addressing the situation that the company is “a standalone, corporate entity with its own capital and dedicated staffing from its shareholders.”
“We remain dedicated to providing the same excellent service credit unions have grown to expect from our company,” said Kim Shaul, the company’s senior vice president and co-general manager.
“In addition to the company’s solid operating performance and financial strength, CMGMI continues to enjoy the strong support from its joint venture partner CUNA Mutual Group,” said CUNA Mutual Group Vice President Sean Dilweg. Dilweg reiterated earlier statements that “CMGMI will continue to benefit from CUNA Mutual’s management and financial strength as well as PMI’s ongoing operational services and expertise. The company is committed to serving credit unions over the long term.”
In support of its confidence, the insurer cited its capital ($1.45 billion through June 2011) and its A (excellent) rating from financial rating firm A.M. Best as well as its capital and reserve ratios.
PMI did not return calls for comment before press time.
PMI and CUNA Mutual Group jointly created CMGMI in 1993, according to CUNA Mutual spokesman Joel Luebkeman. Luebkeman explained that the initial logic for the match was that PMI provided the technological and systems requirements to provide mortgage insurance while CUNA Mutual Group provided the access to the credit union market and much of the marketing and promotion.
“The partnership was extremely successful for many years,” Luebkeman pointed out, and during that time CMGMI grew in its expertise to where it can function on a day-to-day basis without participation with PMI.
Luebkeman repeated the indications of how strong CUNA Mutual Mortgage is as an independent company. In addition to its capital position and strong ratings, the firm reported that as of the last available reporting period, June 30, 2011, it had among the industry’s strongest financial and operating ratios, including a risk-to-capital ratio of approximately 19.7 to 1 and the industry’s lowest portfolio delinquency ratio at 5.3%.
In addition, the firm reported that the its overall ratings are significantly higher than those of its competitors.
He also stressed that none of the regulatory actions taken against PMI, such as the limit on paying 50% of claims immediately (the firm can commit to paying the remaining 50% at a later date), have any impact on CUNA Mutual Mortgage. “We are still paying claims and doing business as usual,” Luebkeman said.
Terry Leone, a senior industry analyst at SNL Insurance, a division of SNL Financial LC, said that if the firm is really as independent of PMI as it said it is, PMI's regulatory takeover should not mean anything to the firm's day-to-day operations. He agreed that the situation is a bit analogous, on a much smaller scale, to the federal takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, where the two organizations continued to function under direct government control.
But one thing is certainly different, even though Luebkeman preferred to say that Arizona is now “managing” PMI, the language in the court order made it clear that Arizona has control of the firm and that the state could decide to liquidate it, merge it or sell it to another firm. That means that its 50% stake in CUNA Mutual Mortgage is its most valuable asset or one of the most valuable assets that PMI currently owns. Luebkeman said the Arizona government, acting as a trustee of PMI, is well aware of the firm's value.