ABS veterans Robert Riviere and Paul Jenison have formed a new broker-dealer and boutique underwriter named Riviere-Jenison Securities Ltd., with offices in New York; Austin, Texas; Boston; and Santa Monica, Calif. Jenison will operate the New York office, with Riviere running the Austin branch. Additionally, managing director Russ Salisbury will head the Boston office and Keith Marks, also an MD, will head the Santa Monica office. Many will recall Jenison, last working as a banker in the pre-merger PaineWebber ABS group, as well as his history on the issuer side, with MBNA America Bank. Together the pair has experience in the home equity, marine, trade receivables, legal settlement, lease, medical receivables, contract monetization and aircraft sectors of the ABS market.

Alberto Gutierrez recently joined mortgage securitizer Titularizadora Colombiana as president. He came over from Bogota-based financial risk consultancy Finac. Prior to that, he was president of Colombian bank Banco Colmena. Gutierrez is filling the shoes of Mauricio Cardenas, who in the past two years became a fixture at international conferences on MBS and LatAm structured finance.

Christian Smith, one of three securitization partners at law firm Weil Gotshal & Manges' London office, will be leaving the firm, according to reports. His departure leaves the London securitization team with partner and group head Jacky Kelly and partner Steven Ong.

The Spiegel Group Inc. is requesting bankruptcy court approval to delay its audited financial statements for its 2002 fiscal year end, as well as the quarterly reports for the first three quarters of 2003. The company asks that it have until April 7, 2004 to file its financial statements with the Securities and Exchange Com- mission. Spiegel also is seeking a new auditor, having terminated its relationship with KPMG on Nov. 17.

Five leading European lenders are planning to lobby for the formation of a mortgage agency modeled after GSEs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Under the proposals, the European Mortgage Finance Agency (EMFA) would finance fixed-rate mortgages originated by member banks Credit Agricole, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, Irish Life & Permanent, Banco Comercial Portugues and Northern Rock plc. These mortgages would have few or no early redemption penalties. The banks are lobbying for the agency to be backed by an implicit guarantee from the European Union to boost favorable market pricing.

Citigroup announced last week that it would purchase Washington Mutual Finance, a subprime-lending unit of Washington Mutual Inc., for $1.25 billion in cash. Net receivables for WaMu Finance totaled $3.8 billion at the end of Q3 2003, up from $2.3 billion at the end of 1997, when the unit was acquired as part of WaMu's purchase of Great Western Financial.

Standard & Poor's Corp. announced last week that it was revising its stance regarding the New Jersey Home Ownership Security Act of 2002, which is set to take effect Nov. 27. Based on clarifications of the act issued by the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance, an opinion of the Attorney General received by S&P and further analysis of relevant New Jersey statutory and case law, S&P has concluded that it will now rate structured finance transactions that include additional New Jersey loans governed by the act, in accordance with its criteria.

The pending merger between Amer- ican Home Mortgage Holdings Inc. and Apex Mortgage Capital has been approved by shareholders, clearing the way for the mortgage lender to transform itself into a real estate investment trust. The new entity will be called American Home Mortgage Investment Corp.

Household Finance Inc. has reached a tentative settlement in a nationwide class action lawsuit filed by Association of Community Org- anizations for Reform Now (ACORN) on behalf of Household mortgage borrowers. In connection with the proposed settlement, Household has agreed to provide funding over a three-year period for ACORN-sponsored financial counseling and literacy programs.

The Metris Companies announced last week that it would delay its third-quarter earnings in order to re-assess its internal controls relating to Metris' policies and procedures for valuation of roughly $630 million in retained securitizations. Independent auditor KPMG cited a "material weakness" in the credit card issuer's valuation methods. There is no timeframe for when Metris may release earnings.

Freddie Mac's single-family mortgage loan limit rose from $322,700 to $333,700 effective January 1, 2004, a 3.4% increase. The limits are based on the October-to-October changes in the average house prices published by the Federal Housing Finance Board (FHFB). Freddie said that the increase in the single-family mortgage loan limit makes it possible for about 150,000 more families to receive lower-cost mortgage financing. The total mortgage interest savings for a borrower with a typical 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage with the new loan limit is up to $38,700 over the life of the loan, said Freddie.

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