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February 09, 2018  

Ranieri Backs Clayton Alumni's Venture

Lewis Ranieri’s Selene Holdings is backing a new due-diligence business.

The New York operation, New Diligence Advisors, initially is focusing on reviewing home loans that don’t meet the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s “qualified-mortgage” standards. It also is covering nonperforming and reperforming accounts.

Working with Ranieri are Mark Hughes, Tom Donatacci and Ann Gibbons. Hughes, a former Clayton Holdings executive, holds the titles of principal and chief operating officer. Donatacci and Gibbons are principals and managing directors — with Donatacci splitting time at Selene and Gibbons having left Clayton in September.

Selene chief executive Joe Pensabene, meanwhile, holds the same title at New Diligence. That assignment reflects Selene’s status as the new firm’s principal investor.

New Diligence is working on behalf of bond underwriters and whole-loan buyers, offering a suite of due-diligence services including credit underwriting, property valuation, regulatory compliance, fraud detection, document review, title verification and servicing. It eventually hopes to compete with market leader AMC Diligence.

To that end, New Diligence already has hired nearly a dozen loan-review specialists and is planning to add more. Hughes said the firm also expects to appear on rating agencies’ lists of accredited loan-review shops by June 30. “I knew I wanted to do this,” he said. “The due-diligence business hasn’t evolved as quickly as it should and there is space for a new firm.”

Hughes and Donatacci plan to unveil the initiative at the Structured Finance Industry Group’s “SFIG Vegas 2018” conference, which takes place Feb. 25-28 at the Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.

Hughes conceived the idea for New Diligence. After leaving his post as an executive vice president responsible for business development Clayton in October 2016, he ran the proposal by Donatacci — who also formerly worked at the mortgage-review firm. Donatacci then relayed the idea to Ranieri, who last year agreed to supply funding and office space in New York, Jacksonville and Horsham, Pa. Gibbons came on soon after.

“This was something that [Ranieri] was very excited about,” Donatacci said, adding that the effort promises to aid Selene’s core business as a special servicer in the mortgage industry.

Hughes is a leading member of SFIG’s due-diligence committee. He joined Clayton in 2015, following stops at LenderLive and CoreLogic. He also has run his own firm, Bohan Group, and spent time at Lehman Brothers.

Donatacci joined Selene from Clayton in 2015, signing on as an executive vice president responsible for business development. He also has worked at GMAC unit Residential Capital, Lehman Brothers and PaineWebber. Gibbons arrived at Clayton in 2003 from Murrayhill Co.

Selene is owned by Ranieri Partners Management and Oaktree Capital. Ranieri, a securitization legend, has been narrowing Ranieri Partners’ holdings to a few core businesses. He agreed in November to sell Shellpoint Partners to New Residential Investment (see article on Page 2). And in April, he converted an asset-management arm called Ranieri Strategies to a family office.