Detroit Free Press: Matthew Roling on UWM CEO ultimatum

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The chief executive of Pontiac-based United Wholesale Mortgage dramatically raised the stakes Thursday of his company's competition with Detroit-based Quicken Loans, telling mortgage brokers that they must choose between the two firms. While Quicken Loans, the largest component of Dan Gilbert's Rocket Companies, is the nation's No. 1 mortgage lender by overall business, it trails UWM in the key category of underwriting loans for independent mortgage brokers. In a live presentation on Facebook Thursday aimed at mortgage brokers, UWM CEO Mat Ishbia claimed that Rocket Companies and another Wisconsin-based competitor known as Fairway Independent Mortgage Corp. are engaging in behaviors that, in his view, inhibit mortgage brokers from growing their share of the overall business. He did not accuse the companies of any illegal behavior. While it's uncommon to see CEOs of publicly traded companies call out competitors and issue ultimatums in the manner Ishbia did, his Facebook speech doesn't appear to violate any corporate governance rules, according to Matthew Roling, executive director of the Office of Business Innovation at Wayne State University's Mike Ilitch School of Business. "He said to his customers (mortgage brokers) that if you use them, you can’t use me. I don’t think the SEC is going to come breathing down his throat saying, ‘you can't tell your customers not to use you,’" Roling said.  "But it certainly makes for strange theater," He added, "Most of the people who run public companies are pretty milquetoast guys. Guys like Mark Cuban or Steve Jobs are the exception, not the rule. And maybe that’s just going to be how Mat is — he’s just going to be a really in-your-face, loud, provocative guy."

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