Michael Mortara, a managing director at Goldman Sachs, died suddenly in his Connecticut home last Sunday. He was 51 years old. Mortara was recently named head of a new venture capital unit at Goldman and was also a member of the risk, management and finance committees at the firm. He was a key figure in the creation of Goldman s mortgage bond market, which he joined in 1987 as head of mortgage bond trading. In 1994, he was named head of fixed-income.Prior to Goldman, Mortara worked at Salomon Brothers for seven years as head of mortgage bond trading. He is survived by his wife and two sons.

The House Banking Committee will hold hearings on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's business activities next year no matter who chairs the committee, according to Rep. Ken Bentsen, D-Texas. Although the Democrats do not set the agenda for the committee, Rep. Bentsen told an Exchequer Club meeting that the issue of "mission creep" will be on the table. "Are the government-sponsored enterprises in other people s businesses," Mr. Bentsen said, "or have other people's businesses come up to the level to where maybe the GSEs are no longer necessary in their current form, which I always thought was the real question we should be looking at." He noted that Rep. Marge Roukema, R-N.J., has the edge in becoming the next chairman over Rep. Richard Baker, R-La, who has pushed the GSE issue very hard. "The safe money bet is probably on Marge, but not by much," he said. He stressed that Congress has a clear role in reviewing the issue of mission creep. "It will force those who question the GSEs in some respects to come out from behind the curtains and really talk about the issues they are concerned about," he said.

Two classes of GE Capital Mortgage Services Inc. home equity loan pass-through certificates have been downgraded by Fitch. Class B1 of Series 1996-HE4 was downgraded from A to BBB-minus and left on Rating Watch Negative, and Class B2 of the series was downgraded from CCC to D (default). Fitch said the rating actions "reflect the likelihood of loss" to the affected classes based on their performance and the number of loans delinquent for more than 90 days. Cumulative losses on the underlying collateral totaled $3.5 million (1.6% of the original collateral balance) as of the October remittance period, the rating agency said.

Amresco Inc., Dallas, has reported a net loss of $18.4 million ($1.90 per share) for the third quarter, compared with a net loss of $82.0 million ($8.55 per share) a year earlier. The company attributed the loss to various factors, including $27.0 million in writedowns on home equity retained interests, $5.6 million in losses related to the sale of its homebuilder finance division, a $3.8 million loss on the sale of a commercial mortgage-backed security, and a $2.5 million writedown of a real estate asset.

Wells Fargo Home Mortgage and Countrywide Home Loans are anticipating higher conforming-loan limits next year and therefore increased their GSE ceilings to $265,000, effective immediately, before Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The cap on the loans that can be purchased and securitized by the government-sponsored enterprise is expected to rise as much as $20,000 on Jan. 1, and the interim limits will be in effect until then. The actual amount will be announced on Nov. 28 in the October survey of housing prices from the Federal Housing Finance Board is published. The currently the limit is $252,700.

New York-based Lexington Corporate Properties Trust, will acquire two Delaware limited partnerships, Net 1 LP and Net 2 LP. The merger is valued at approximately $143 million.

According to the agreement, the Net partnerships will merge into a Lexington subsidiary, and Lexington will issue about $65 million of securities to the sellers and assume about $78 million of mortgage financing. The partners of Net 1 are expected to receive $25.5 million of the merger consideration, and the partners of Net 2 are expected to receive $39.5 million.

Freddie Mac has announced that Vaughn A. Clarke is stepping up to the position of executive vice president and chief financial officer. Clarke, formerly senior vice president of finance, will now be responsible for developing the company's financial strategy, managing its financial performance, and overseeing such functions as corporate accounting, management reporting, financial analysis, and planning and budgeting.

Before joining Freddie Mac in 1998, he was senior vice president and treasurer at Viacom Inc.

Radian Group, the parent company of the Philadelphia-based mortgage insurer, will acquire New York-based re-insurer Enhance Financial Services Group. The stock transaction is valued at $540 million. According to the agreement, Radian will also acquire Enhance's 46% stake in C-BASS, a company that buys, securitizes, and services nonperforming and subperforming mortgage loans.

South Carolina-based Resource Bancshares Mortgage Group, Inc. has named Douglas K. Freeman chairman of the board, in addition to his current role as chief executive officer. Freeman succeeds Boyd M. Guttery. Previously, Freeman was president of the Consumer Finance Group of Bank of America.

Georgia-based Lahaina, has agreed to acquire Denver-based United Capital Mortgage Corp. The amount of the acquisition has yet to be announced. Lahaina said United originates about $300 million in home mortgages annually and sells them in the secondary market on a servicing-released basis.

United also has branch offices in Colorado, Nevada, and Florida and a wholesale operation in Buffalo, N.Y.

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