Opinion: Latest UWM Allegations Show Mat Ishbia Puts the ‘I’ in ‘Team’


Nearly a decade ago, former Michigan State basketball player — and future United Wholesale Mortgage CEO — Mat Ishbia wrote an op-ed for Inc. Magazine, explaining how his business success was an extension of his strategy on the court.

Ishbia wrote that his approach is “creating teamwork.”

“Be a thumb pointer, not a finger pointer. When adversity strikes, pointing your finger at someone else doesn’t solve anything. Instead, be accountable; point your thumb at yourself and get better,” he wrote a decade ago.

But today, critics say, the embattled Ishbia is using lawsuits and market leverage to get his way. Instead of leadership and teamwork, Ishbia’s tactic is a top-down, “my way or the highway” approach to the mortgage brokers’ market.

The debate over UWM’s exclusivity mandate is nothing new. In 2021, Ishbia gave an “all-in” ultimatum to brokers during a Facebook Live event, demanding all of his broker partners sign an oath swearing off any future work from competitors Rocket Mortgage and Fairway Independent Mortgage or be blacklisted from subsequent partnerships with UWM.

UWM claims the independent mortgage brokers they work with “shop dozens of lenders” on behalf of their clients, but evidence points to UWM instead bullying those brokers into pushing deals its way.

According to Hunterbrook Media, which has tabulated data over the last three years regarding Ishbia’s “All In” ultimatum, brokers who sent UWM more than 99% of their business yielded $39 billion in mortgages, a conclusion that could find its way into a lawsuit over UWM’s anti-competitive practices.

Hunterbrook also says that UMortgage, “a purportedly independent mortgage company,” is actually a shell company that sent UWM an estimated $1.9 billion in loans from 2021 to 2023, about 77% of UMortgage’s business.

UMortgage loan originator Lyndsey Johnson told Hunterbrook that UMortgage “manipulates its rate sheets … without telling the UMortgage loan originators whose responsibility it is to shop for the best deal on behalf of clients” to make UWM’s loans appear cheaper.

Hunterbrook is a start-up founded by publisher Sam Koppelman and investor Nathaniel Brooks Horwitz. It is comprised of two entities: a hedge fund and a website that publishes reports based on publicly available data.

Hunterbrook Capital makes trades based on stories it uncovers through Hunterbrook Media.

Ishbia accused Rocket of somehow being involved in the original expose, an accusation Rocket has denied. UWM leaders even put out a statement linking the writer of the article to Rocket.

Koppleman said lead author and lawyer Matthew Termine worked for an independent mortgage broker.

When it comes to Ishbia’s management style, Hunterbook has the receipts. For example, the company has an audiotape of Ishbia talking about Rocket Mortgage, and not in the language of good sportsmanship, either.

“F— those guys. We’re number one! We f—ing took those c—suckers down!” he said.

And if “creating teamwork” is the goal, using UWM’s market share to force small mortgage companies to do business with them – or else—isn’t the way to build trust in the team or the marketplace.

“These types of issues question a brand’s credibility and break the trust with your stakeholders,” Pompea College of Business practitioner-in-residence Angelica Gianchandani told The Mortgage Note. “To establish trust, to regain stakeholder confidence, will take a long time and others may walk away.”

It’s certainly a far cry from how Ishbia claims to operate, embracing open competition.

“The reality is you’ve got to compete, and you’ve got to win,” Ishbia told Housing Wire last year. “So, people who say inventory and rates and it’s bottom and it’s struggling, they just have a loser’s mentality. And those people I don’t like being associated with.”

Ishbia also credited his company’s success with the culture he’s built at UWM, headquartered in Pontiac, Michigan.

“We believe that culture and people are the keys to success,” he continued. “I can’t acquire some companies in California and Minnesota and try to put [into place] this culture. It’s like a cheating way to try to get more volume anyway. We organically grow and build.”

In fact, Ishbia and UWM have been accused of creating a culture that is unfriendly to workers in general and women in particular.

UWM has been sued for a variety of bad conduct reasons, including sexual harassment and failure to pay its employees. Added to that list last month was a lawsuit over the failure to provide accommodations for a deaf software developer.

Ironically, Ishbia is also being called out for putting the “I” in “team” as owner of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns.

The Suns just suffered a 4-0 sweep in the first round of the playoffs, leading ESPN to publish, “Suns Long Term Future is ‘Ugly.'” Sources inside the locker room say the problem is Ishbia.

“It’s like looney tunes around here,” a Suns source told the sports news site Hoops Wire. “It’s felt unstable since he arrived. He’s a good guy and everything, I think, but he’s just very involved. Too involved. I know he played college ball, but I’d venture to say he has no idea what he’s doing when it comes to basketball. Yet he’s making a lot of the big decisions.”

“He’s a pain in the (butt) to be honest,” the source added.

One thing Ishbia and his critics agree on: In both sports and business, character counts. Customers have to believe in the products, while athletes and fans have to have confidence in a team and its leadership. Losing that confidence can hurt the bottom line.

Read More Articles:

UWM And Its CEO Play Blame Game After Bombshell Report, New Lawsuit

UWM Doubles Down On Claims About Hunterbrook Report

Hunterbrook Hits UWM, UMortgage With Shell Scheme Claims

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