loanDepot’s Anthony Hsieh Forced Down Thanks To Proxy Fight

loanDepot founder and former CEO Anthony Hsieh has stepped down from his executive chairman position as part of a mutual agreement unanimously approved by the company’s Board of Directors.

In a press release, the Board explained that the decision arose from a proxy fight started by Hsieh when he sent a letter to loanDepot shareholders indicating he planned to nominate and, by virtue of his 57% combined voting power, instate Steven Ozonian as a director.

Ozonian is CEO of the Williston Financial Group and would have replaced sitting independent director Pamela Hughes Patenaude, a real estate and housing policy expert whose term expires at loanDepot’s annual meeting this year.

Hsieh cited an “urgent need for board refreshment” to combat dwindling mortgage demand as his reason for wanting Ozonian on the board.

“Mr. Ozonian’s experience and perspective will be additive to the loanDepot Board of Directors at this critical juncture for the company. The recent rise in rates and challenging macroeconomic environment make Mr. Ozonian’s potential appointment all the more urgent,” he wrote.

This move was “outside of the governance process overseen by the Board’s Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee,” according to members of the board. 

In a subsequent press release, Hsieh claimed that the board voted to remove him prior to Ozonian’s nomination and disputed other statements by the board.

“It is surprising and disappointing that Mr. Hsieh would attempt to circumvent the Company’s process for assessing potential director nominees,” Dawn Lepore, Chair of the Board’s Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee, said.

“We question why he would pursue a disruptive proxy contest to install his nominee when Mr. Ozonian has already been, and continues to be, under evaluation. Our focus remains on following good corporate governance practices, fulfilling our fiduciary responsibilities, and driving the long-term value of loanDepot.”

Hsieh served as head of loanDepot until he named Frank Martell President and CEO last year. Both Hsieh and Martell were recently recognized as 2023 “power players” by Inman.

Hsieh will remain chairman of the company’s board of directors.