Category Archives: News

Infowars: Senator Corker Caught Shorting Stocks He Demonized

Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker, in his dogged determination to see Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac shut down, has frequently criticized hedge funds in their attempt to make money from the two Government Sponsored Entities (GSEs). Read the online article here.

World Economic Forum/Flickr

Corker’s critics have criticized him for his hypocrisy, producing evidence Corker himself profited from a strategy to short Fannie and Freddie in 2007 and 2008, while maintaining an investment portfolio that has invested as much as $50 million in the same hedge funds Corker attacks as “vultures” corrupting Washington.”

As has previously reported, in 2006, Henry Luken, a long-time Corker business associate and political backer, acquired from the then-Chattanooga mayor Bob Corker tens of millions of dollars in risky real estate holdings that were headed underwater, providing Corker the capital he needed to complete his successful run for the Senate.

After lending his campaign $4.2 million from the Luken transaction into his Senate campaign, giving Corker virtually all the money he spent in the final weeks of the campaign, Corker narrowly defeated his Democratic challenger Harold E. Ford, Jr., 51 percent to 48 percent, outspending Ford by $18.6 million to $15.6 million.

According to his Senate financial disclosures, upon his arrival in the Senate, Corker began using the proceeds from the Luken transaction to shift tens of millions of dollars to a series of hedge funds, including Chattanooga-based Pointer Management Company, whose founder, Thorpe McKenzie, was a political supporter of Corker and an investor in Luken’s companies. has obtained a copy of a compliance “Adherence Letter” authored by Pointer Management, LLC, dated September 30, 2008, making it clear Pointer was taking a short position on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by buying derivatives, specifically credit default swaps, that would generate for Pointer a handsome profit, provided the share prices of the two GSEs went down.

This was the same period when investor Bill Ackman, the CEO of the now multi-billion-dollar Pershing Square Capital Management hedge fund, was also shorting Fannie and Freddie by purchasing credit default swaps, as evidenced by a letter dated Oct. 2, 2008. has possession of two emails obtained by FOIA requests that document Sen. Corker had meetings with Jim Lockhart, then the director of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO), the precursor to the Federal Housing Finance Agency FHFA, in April 2008 and again in July 2008, prior to the Pointer purchase of Fannie/Freddie credit default swaps.

In the first email, dated April 8, 2008, Courtney Geduldig in Corker’s Senate office, emailed to Joanne Hanley, Congressional Affairs, OFHEA, with a copy to Peter Brereton, External Affairs, OFHEA, asking how best to “follow-up on a meeting with the Senator (Corker) and the Director (Lockhart).

The second email, dated July 10, 2008, was again from Courtney Geduldig to Joanne Hanley, with a copy to Peter Brereton, stating: “Obviously, there’s a lot going on in your world.  The senator (Corker) wanted to see if someone could come in and talk to us about the new accounting proposals as well as the gse’s current situation.  Let me know what might work.”

It seems highly likely that material, non-public information was exchanged during these two meetings that took place 5 months and 2 months respectively before the GSEs were put into conservatorship.

Corker’s Senate financial disclosures indicate that after his successful 2006 Senate campaign, Corker invested between $8.5 million into hedge funds, including between $5 million and $25 million that he invested in Pointer.  Corker’s Pointer investment profited him a total of between 3.9 million and $15.5 million over the next nine years.

Corker’s own investments in hedge funds betting on Fannie and Freddie’s failure provide a damning context for his crusade against the GSEs and their investors.  Corker appears to have even enlisted members of the press in his campaign against the GSEs.

On Aug. 10, 2015, the Business Insider published an article noting that in a conference call with investors, Bill Ackman, an investor in Fannie and Freddie, attacked John Carney, a reporter at that time writing for the Wall Street Journal, for writing the “most factually inaccurate” and “frankly embarrassing articles about Freddie and Fannie, calling Carney’s coverage of Fannie and Freddie in the newspaper’s “Heard on the Street” column a “disaster.”

Ackman’s frustration was that Carney had argued the shares of Fannie and Freddie were not “living up to hopes,” without understanding the reason for that underperformance was the Net Wort Sweep, in which Treasury since August 2012 had begun stripping from Fannie and Freddie all earnings, without allowing either GSE to recapitalize or to pay dividends.

In the various jobs he has held in his writing career, Carney has consistently supported Corker by attacking investors that invested in Fannie and Freddie while supporting legislation Corker introduced with Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner in 2013 aimed at shutting Fannie and Freddie down. Corker’s legislation favored a “bank-centric” mortgage finance model, where banks that have financed Corker, including Wells Fargo, could be expected to be dominant players in the future housing finance industry.

Before starting his latest assignment with, Corker media stooge John Carney even took pains to disguise his years of publishing articles bashing Donald Trump, going so far as to erase from his Twitter archive dozens of tweets he had published critical of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

In an article he wrote for DealBreaker, dated April 10, 2006, Carney ridiculed Trump’s performance at a press conference held at Trump Tower in New York City at which Trump announced the creation of Trump Mortgage.

Commenting that Trump seemed “confused by the crowds and media” as he assumed the podium, Carney asked Trump, “Will the homes bought with Trump mortgages have to be adorned with giant gold letters reading Trump?” – a question that got no response, as Trump turned away, with Carney reporting Trump’s hair scowled back at him.

In his most recent article, written for on April 7, 2017, Carney continued his attack on “hedge funds and other big investors, including Perry Capital LLC and Fairholme Funds” for not understanding Fannie and Freddie were, in Carney’s opinion, “the primary cause of the financial crisis” in 2008 – an argument Carney asserted without considering the role played by major bank players in the crisis caused securitizing sub-prime mortgages.

The truth is that the crisis began when mortgage loan originators like Countrywide Financial and financial institutions like Washington Mutual began marketing sub-prime mortgage loans aggressively well before Fannie and Freddie got in trouble.

By the time Fannie and Freddie were seized in the fall of 2008, more than 311 major lenders more than 311 major lenders in the sub-prime mortgage market had failed, including financial institutions that provided warehouse lines of credit to independent lenders with the goal of originating increasing lower quality mortgage loans in the sub-prime market.

The widely read financial blog on Feb. 2, 2010, took Corker to task for his “bank-centric” view that no commercial bank had failed while performing proprietary trading, arguing that Corker “must have received his information from the banking lobby, and did not do his own homework.”

An article published in Time Magazine on Feb. 5, 2010, made clear that Lehman Brothers had lost more than $32 billion from proprietary trading and principal transactions in the mortgage market in the year and a half up to the crash that occurred in the fall of 2008 – a sum nearly double the $18 billion in common equity Lehman Brothers had in late 2006, just before mortgage bonds began going south – a sum Time called “more than enough to wipe the firm out.”

The Time article further pointed out Merrill Lynch lost nearly $20 billion on investments in collateralized debt obligations in the mortgage market, while Morgan Stanly experienced nearly a $4 billion loss in proprietary mortgage-securities related trading in the fourth quarter of 2007 alone.

Time went on to note Goldman Sachs spent $3 billion to bail out one of its hedge funds, and Citicorp poured out more than $3 billion into fixing its problems with structured investment vehicles that it had set up with its own capital.

“Like Merrill, Citibank lost big — as much as $15 billion, on the CDOs [Collateralized Debt Obligations] it decided to hold rather than sell off,” Time concluded. “In fact, nearly every large financial firm that stumbled during the financial crisis had billions of dollars in proprietary-trading or hedge-fund losses.” referenced an article published by the Wall Street Journal on Sept. 26, 2008, noting Washington Mutual was seized by the FDIC and sold off to J.P. Morgan Chase in the largest failure in U.S. banking history, resulting from the bank’s extensive involvement aggressively originating mortgages in the sub-prime mortgage market, as well as buying sub-prime loans from outside mortgage lenders, and participating as a major player in the secondary securitized CMO, or collateralized mortgage obligation, market.

Joshua Rosner, a managing director of the New York-based independent research firm Graham Fisher & Co., an expert in mortgage financing, in an exclusive email exchange with, commented on Corker’s apparent hypocrisy investing heavily in hedge funds, including one known to have shorted Fannie and Freddie in 2008, while demonizing hedge funds for wanting to make a profit on their GSE stock.

“The hedge fund attacks are a sideshow to avoid scrutiny of Corker’s own proposals, which would turn over the U.S. housing market to Wells Fargo,” Rosner said.

“Corker has this amazing way of creating false villains to avoid the substance of real mortgage market reform,” Rosner continued.

“Making the argument all about ‘evil hedge funds’ captures the public attention and may sound right to those less knowledgeable about the importance of capital investment to the growth and development of the mortgage market in the United States,” he insisted.

“But the truth is that demonizing hedge funds is nothing more than a disingenuous and cynical claim by Corker – a legislator with a long history of too-close ties to too-big-to-fail (TBTF) institutions,” Rosner said in conclusion.

Tim Pagliara Ranked #2 Financial Advisor in Tennessee by Barron’s Magazine for 2017

CapWealth Advisors Founder, Chairman and CEO has been selected as one of the top two wealth managers in the state following five consecutive years as #1 in Tennessee. Pagliara has also been ranked a national Top 1,200 Advisor for the eighth time in nine years.

CapWealth Advisors Chairman and CEO Tim Pagliara

Middle Tennessee-based wealth manager Tim Pagliara, chairman and CEO of independent registered investment advisory firm CapWealth Advisors, has been named the second-highest-ranked financial advisor in the state of Tennessee by Barron’s magazine. Pagliara previously occupied the #1 spot in the state for five consecutive years (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016). Pagliara was also named this year among the nation’s “Top 1,200 Advisors,” the eighth time in nine years (2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016). The rankings are published annually by the financial industry magazine and are based on data provided by over 4,000 of the nation’s most productive advisors. Factors include assets under management, revenue generated by the firm’s advisors, regulatory history, quality of practice and philanthropic work.

“Being named amongst the top advisors in the state is an honor for me and my entire team,” Pagliara said. “It affirms our simple but powerful business model: complete client focus. What flows from that focus is investment strategies about which we have great conviction but also which our clients can easily understand, state-of-the-art technology in accurately reporting our clients’ performance and, finally, in a word, trust. Our clients trust us to grow and preserve their families’ financial legacies. It’s an incredible privilege to serve our clients, and we are grateful to have an organization like Barron’s that recognizes firms for what they achieve for their clients.”

Pagliara started his firm in 2000 after nearly 20 years in the financial industry with the goal of serving clients better in two distinct ways: the exclusive use of market-traded securities and an emphasis on accountability and transparency. CapWealth Advisors practices Sophisticated Simplicity®, the art of thoroughly understanding a complicated global markets landscape and boiling it down to high-quality, straightforward investment ideas. To provide clients with a clear understanding of their returns and costs, the firm relies upon Provable Integrity™, a proprietary tracking and reporting system utilizing state-of-the-art data-aggregation technology and compliance with the rigorous standards of the Global Investment Performance Standards (GIPS). As a result, CapWealth Advisors specializes in preserving, growing and distributing assets over its clients’ lifetimes, backed by performance that can be proven to an auditable certainty.

Did Obama Rob Fannie, Freddie to Fund Obamacare?

The fact that the Obama Administration unilaterally changed the terms of the GSE conservatorship to sweep all their profits is irrefutable. It’s also clear that the administration did so just as the GSEs were becoming fantastically profitable again. This, too, is a matter of public record, thanks to ongoing litigation in more than one courtroom. What’s not always plain is what the administration did with those coffers swelling with ill-begotten riches.

The article below (click here to read the original publication) compellingly alleges that one of the ways the GSE profits–our profits, by rights–were used was by illegally funding Obama’s signature work as President, the Affordable Care Act. I encourage Fannie and Freddie shareholders, as well as anyone interested in citizens’ rights and the rule of law, to read it.

Obama Illegally Robbed Fannie, Freddie to Fund Obamacare

Obama diverted money from low-income housing to keep Obamacare alive

Jerome R. Corsi | – February 27, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Will this be the final nail in the coffin for the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “Obamacare?”

Federal court litigation provides evidence the Obama administration illegally diverted taxpayer funds that had not been appropriated by Congress in an unconstitutional scheme to keep Obamacare from imploding.

In 2016, a U.S. District judge caught the Obama administration’s Health and Human Services Department acting unconstitutionally and therefore put an end to the illegal diversion of taxpayer funds, but the Obama administration didn’t stop there.

The Obama administration instead turned to the nation’s two government-sponsored mortgage giants – the Federal National Mortgage Association, commonly known as “Fannie Mae,” and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, commonly known as “Freddie Mac” – to invent a new diversion of funds in a desperate attempt to keep Obamacare from collapsing.

A key date is May 12, 2016. That was the day when U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer, in the case U.S. House of Representatives v. Burwell, (130 F. Supp. 3d 53, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia), ruled against Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell.

Judge Collyer decided HHS Secretary Burwell had no constitutional authority to divert funds Congress appropriated to one section of the ACA to fund Obamacare subsidy payments to insurers under another section of the ACA, Section 1402 – the clause defining the insurer subsidies – when Congress specifically declined to appropriate any funds to Section 1402 for paying the insurance subsidy.

“Paying out Section 1402 reimbursements without an appropriation thus violates the Constitution,” Judge Collyer concluded. “Congress authorized reduced cost sharing but did not appropriate monies for it, in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget or since.”

“Congress is the only source for such an appropriation, and no public money can be spent without one.”

The U.S. District court in this ruling entered judgment in favor of the House of Representatives, barring HHS from using unappropriated money to pay insurers under Section 1402.

What was at issue in Section 1402 was the Obamacare provision that capped the amount of federal subsidies under Section 1402 that lower-income families could use to pay for insurance purchased on state insurance exchanges, particularly the difference between the capped maximum based on a person or family’s income in relation to the federal poverty level.

Congress had refused to pass an appropriation to fund Section 1402 – the section of the ACA that called for making the insurance subsidy payments.

In a report issued in March 2016, the Congressional Budget Office estimated the cost for providing Section 1402 subsidies over the next ten years (2016-2026) was estimated to be $130 billion.

Forbidden by Judge Collyer’s decision from diverting money Congress appropriated for other ACA provisions to pay Section 1402 subsidies, the Obama administration faced the prospect that the government could not pay subsidies to permit lower-income persons and families to buy the amount of health insurance Obamacare was written to provide them.

Either this, or insurers would be forced to charge middle and high income-persons and families such outrageous amounts for their insurance coverage (to subsidize the poor under ACA) that only the wealthiest could afford to buy health insurance.

In other words, Obamacare was dead in the water if the Obama administration could not find a way to circumvent the District Court’s decision U.S. House of Representatives v. Burwell to fund Section 1402 despite the fact Congress had refused to do so.

Determined to keep Obamacare alive, the Obama administration decided to find a way around Judge Collyer’s ruling.

The fix involved the Obama administration redefining the terms of the 2008 conservatorship agreements which advanced funds to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from a 10% dividend on moneys borrowed to the federal government’s confiscation of 100% of the future and imminent profits of these Government Sponsored Entities, or GSEs.

Miraculously, the Freddie and Fannie “pot of gold” turned out to be almost exactly the amount the Obama administration needed to meet the anticipated insurance company subsidies required to keep Section 1402 in business.

So, how did Fannie and Freddie get this pot of gold, given that only a few years earlier both GSEs were bankrupt?

In 2008, in the midst of the financial crisis caused in part by the collapse of the subprime mortgage market, the federal government decided to seize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which at the time were two shareholder-owned companies.

In passing the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (HERA), the U.S. Congress had fixed the regulatory issues at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, creating a mechanism for them to be placed into conservatorship at federal government’s discretion AND providing up to $187.5 billion in funds that could be advanced to the GSEs through a purchase of senior preferred stock paying a ten percent dividend.

In deciding to bail them out, the federal government took control of the two giant mortgage GSEs, with Fannie and Freddie effectively put into government “conservatorship.”

As part of the conservatorship, the federal government effectively acquired warrants, convertible at a nominal price, which allowed the federal government to acquire 79% of the GSE’s common stock.

This resulted in causing dilution in the percentage of Fannie and Freddie common stock ownership that was left in the hands of private and institutional investors.

Congress’ intent was that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would pay back the Treasury as the mortgage giants returned to profitability.

But after the Treasury was paid back, the terms of HERA anticipated Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would pay appropriate dividends to stockholders, including the federal government, leaving enough funds within Freddie and Fannie to “conserve and preserve” the assets of the two GSEs, anticipating their eventual return to a “safe and solvent” operating condition.

In 2012, the Obama administration unilaterally decided to change the terms of HERA by sweeping all the profits of Fannie and Freddie into the Treasury’s general fund.

The Obama administration took this action, the so-called “Net Worth Sweep,” without any Congressional authority to do so.

The result was that the U.S. Treasury “found” a way to sweep 100% of Fannie and Freddie profits into the Treasury’s “general fund,” leaving the giant mortgage GSEs vulnerable to the need for another government bailout should another disruption occur in the nation’s economy.

Because of this decision, the Obama administration on its own authority simply decided to discontinue paying dividends to private and institutional owners of Fannie and Freddie common and preferred stock.

Congress, in passing HERA, never anticipated the Obama administration would take over Fannie and Freddie and strip the agencies of all profits – a move that left private and institutional shareholders in the cold.

Leading up to the decision to sweep Fannie and Freddie’s profits, the GSEs return to imminent profitability was known only by a few government officials and their consultants.

Their own internal forecasts, uncovered in unsealed court documents, showed that Fannie and Freddie’s profitability would soon dramatically outperform the amount of the allowable 10% dividend that the Treasury would receive under the existing Senior Preferred Stock Purchase Agreements.

On August 17, 2012, these same officials and consultants succeeded in engineering with the Federal Housing Financial Agency, FHFA, and the Department of Treasury an amendment to the Senior Preferred Stock Purchase Agreements that allowed the U.S. Treasury to grab ALL Fannie and Freddie profits – regardless how large Fannie and Freddie’s earnings might be.

Between 2012, when the Obama administration began its policy of confiscating all Fannie and Freddie profits and now, Fannie and Freddie have paid the U.S. Treasury general fund more than $240 billion in dividends.

The point is that after May 12, 2016, when U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer ruled that HHS had to stop diverting ACA funds to pay Obamacare subsidies, the Obama administration realized that HHS somehow had to fund the estimated $130 billion the HHS would need in un‐appropriated monies to pay health insurers the ACA subsidies required to keep Obamacare alive in Fiscal Year 2013.

Plaintiffs litigating against the Obama administration’s confiscation of Freddie and Fannie earnings have challenged in court whether the Obama administration’s decision to amend the Preferred Stock Purchase Agreement in August 2012 and sweep GSE profits of $130 billion in 2013 ($82.4 billion from Fannie Mae, and $47.6 billion from Freddie Mac) was an attempt to circumvent Congress on the single most important policy priority of the White House.

The timing was particularly interesting given that September 2012 marked the beginning of the sequestration discussions.

Government documents leave little doubt profits from Fannie and Freddie confiscated by the U.S. Treasury have been used by the Obama administration to pay Obamacare subsidies and other items not appropriated by Congress, in complete and illegal circumvention of the District Court’s ruling and the Constitution’s determination that only the Congress shall have the power to tax and spend.

For instance, Chapter 3 of the Congressional Budget Office publication “The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2015 to 2025” notes on page 63 that the major contributors to mandatory U.S. government spending include “… outlays for Medicaid, subsidies for health insurance purchases through exchanges, and the government’s transactions with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.”

Why Fannie and Freddie are specified in this context, when Fannie and Freddie have had sufficient earnings to operate without government subsidies since 2008 is made clear a few pages later.

On page 65, in Table 3-2, the CBO report notes “mandatory outlays projected in CBO’s baseline” from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for 2014 is -$74 billion and for 2015 a total of -$26 billion.

The figures are “negative dollar amounts” because instead of paying out to Freddie and Fannie, the U.S. Treasury is collecting from Freddie and Fannie, with the proceeds going into the U.S. Treasury general fund to pay “mandatory outlays,” including evidently continued subsidies to insurers, as specified by ACA Section 1402.

In footnote 14 on page 8 of that CBO report lets the cat out of the bag, noting the Obama administration considers payments from Freddie and Fannie “to be outside of the federal government for budgetary purposes,” recording cash payments from Freddie and Fannie to the Treasury as “federal receipts.”

The Obama administration evidently considered this all-too-convenient redefinition of terms allowed the government to argue the use of Fannie and Freddie profits to pay Obamacare Section 1402 subsidies was not in violation of the District Court ruling.

Why? Evidently because Fannie and Freddie profits were not taxpayer-generated, but were profit payments generated by Government Sponsored Entities that still had some common and preferred stock private and institutional shareholder ownership.

In the same footnote, the CBO takes exception with the Obama administration, commenting the CBO considers profit payments to the Treasury made by Fannie and Freddie to be “intragovernmental” receipts going into the same Treasury general fund pot, to be mixed indistinguishably with taxpayer revenue, not distinct public/private GSE “receipts” separately accounted for in the Treasury general fund as distinguishable from taxpayer revenue.

If the federal courts conclude Fannie and Freddie GSE “receipts” to Treasury still need Congressional appropriation to be spent legitimately by the executive branch of government, the Obama administration will have been exposed as having operated outside the Constitution in its desperate attempt to keep the ACA from imploding.

What should be outrageous to progressives understanding the Obama administration subterfuge to keep the ACA alive is that by confiscating Fannie/Freddie profits to keep Obamacare alive, Obama ignored core members of the Democratic Party’s core constituency – affordable housing advocates and minority groups – with little explanation.

CapWealth Senior Advisor Jennifer Pagliara Selected to Nashville’s Young Leaders Council

We’re pleased to announce that Senior Advisor Jennifer Pagliara has been accepted into the Young Leaders Council (YLC)/Massey Graduate School Alumni Class 2017, an organization committed to broadening and strengthening Nashville’s volunteer leadership base!

Founded in 1985 by the Council of Community Services in conjunction with the Frist Foundation (formerly the HCA Foundation) and the United Way, the YLC selects participants between 25 and 40 years of age from a broad range of corporate, civic and volunteer backgrounds. They may be nominated by YLC alumni, their group’s management or may be self-nominated with management’s recommendation.

“I am so excited to begin the YLC training program,” says Jennifer. “As my career has progressed, as I’ve worked with our clients’ children and high school girls to better understand finance and frankly as I’ve watched my dad’s philanthropic commitment, my own passion for giving back to our community has grown continually sharper. I want to do more to support Nashville and its people. YLC will provide training and insight to help me discover where and how I might best do that.”

The YLC consists of a eleven-session training program, addressing fundamental board skills. These interactive sessions reflect on such leadership indicators as collaboration, diversity and the role of catalyst deemed crucial for today’s nonprofit leadership roles. The training is followed by a year internship with a community agency. At this time, the YLC participant serves as a non-voting member of a working board.

Jennifer Pagliara, Senior Advisor, has served on our client advisory team since 2014. She works closely with President and CEO Phoebe Venable and Senior Advisor Traci Olive to help ensure that our clients have the best experience with us as possible. Jennifer spearheads our efforts to reach the Millennial market and serves as personal advisor to our growing number of Millennial clients. While pursuing her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Birmingham-Southern College, Jennifer interned with the firm in the summer. Upon graduating in 2010, Jennifer joined the firm full-time, working in both compliance and client services.

In 2014, Jennifer completed her MBA degree at Belmont University with a concentration in Finance. While there, she was a member of Beta Gamma Sigma (the top 10% of her class). In her program’s culminating course, each year students participate in a business-simulation competition. The same product is assigned to all teams, and each as a competing company must plan research and development, production, pricing, marketing, employee benefits—everything that real-world companies must wrestle with. Ultimately, after being pitted against three other student teams as well as three computer-model teams, Jennifer’s team won, scoring higher than any team in Belmont University history.

Along with Phoebe Venable, Jennifer hosts “Money Camp” for our clients’ children and grandchildren, teaching them the fundamentals of saving, spending, giving and investing. She has recently begun to give “guest speaker” presentations to local businesses and organizations about finance, speaking specifically to certain topics like 401(k)s, college savings and the stock market. For the past two years, she’s served as a mentor and teacher for Rock the Street, Wall Street, a national organization dedicated to inculcating a passion and a vocation for finance in high school girls.

Jennifer holds FINRA licenses including the Series 7, 63 and 65, and is a member of the National Association of Professional Women, a national membership organization representing professional women of outstanding leadership and accomplishment.

She grew up in Franklin, Tennessee, and today resides in Nashville. She loves animals, particularly her dog Luna, she reads a about novel a week on average, and she enjoys yoga and the area’s great hiking trails. In 2016, she summitted Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa.

A proud member of the Millennial Generation, Jennifer writes a bi-weekly financial column for The Tennessean that speaks to her peers and anyone else that wants to get ahead financially.  You can follow her columns on our blog or at Twitter and LinkedIn.

Bruce Berkowitz’s Latest Annual Letter to Fairholme Fund Shareholders Is a Must-Read

We here at CapWealth Advisors have long followed Bruce Berkowitz. As his brand tagline states, he ignores the crowd. We not only admire that, but our firm subscribes to the same tenet. Focus on your best ideas with conviction, regardless of the outside noise. Mr. Berkowitz and his shareholders have something else in common with CapWealth Advisors and our clients: we all have been abused by the GSE conservatorship. For both of these reasons, I invite you to read his latest letter to shareholders and directors of his Fairholme Fund.

January 30, 2017

To the Shareholders and Directors of Fairholme Fund (Trades, Portfolio)S, Inc.:

Since Fairholme’s inception, we have pursued a value-oriented investment approach that avoids popular securities in favor of companies that are both unloved and undervalued. Although the world has become more uncertain and the recognition of value is taking longer, we remain optimistic. Business cycles exist. History continues to rhyme. Investors march to the drums of both greed and fear. Markets move with asset values, but not always. Since 2000, our letters have tried to explain how we assay fundamental values and assess the differences between such values and their market prices. Our goal remains to buy dollars for fifty cents or less.

Technological disintermediation and regulatory overreach have increasingly affected investment conditions, including the supply of and demand for human and capital resources. Fairholme’s investment checklist has necessarily adapted to these and other evolving dynamics. Continuous review of risks and returns resulted in transitioning the Fairholme mutual funds (collectively, the “Funds”) from common equities toward shorter term, higher yielding, and more senior debt obligations and reduced exposure to financials that may lose more than can be gained amid higher interest rates over the coming years. Our investments have significantly less correlation with equity market indices. We believe that the Funds have the wherewithal for outsized rewards while protecting against the inevitable headwinds caused by rising interest rates and high valuation levels.

Exchange-traded index funds (“ETFs”) are all the rage these days for their straightforward, low-cost replication of broad indexes. While it is a good idea to efficiently go long America, ETFs occasionally swing to illogical extremes when popularity leads to overpriced and overweighted constituents. When bubbles burst, it may take a decade or longer to recover what may be lost in a few months. Given the choice, we strongly prefer to focus on the unpopular, underpriced, and underweighted. We recall Charlie Munger (Trades, Portfolio)’s advice:

Students learn corporate finance at business schools. They are taught that the whole secret is diversification. But the rule is exactly the opposite. The ‘know-nothing’ investor should practice diversification, but it is crazy if you are an expert. The goal of investment is to find situations where it is safe not to diversify. If you only put 20% into the opportunity of a lifetime, you are not being rational. Very seldom do we get to buy as much of any good idea as we would like to.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

Odds favor Fannie Mae (FNMA) or Freddie Mac (FMCC) helped your parents and you obtain a first home, and that the same will be true for your children and grandchildren. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guarantee the timely payment of principal and interest demanded by lenders. Investors just like you own and fund their operations. Yet, we fight an expropriation of our principal by the government. Here’s where we stand: prosperity exists in a capitalist society only when contracts are honored. The rule of law must be respected and cannot be eliminated by fiat. If you disagree, just see the despair in Venezuela. We look forward to a decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that protects and preserves our investments in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Signs indicate that we are nearing the end of our “Alice in Washington” journey.

Our three appellate court judges (Janice Brown, Doug Ginsburg, and Patricia Millett) published a separate decision (Heartland Plymouth Court MI, LLC v. National Labor Relations Board) that we believe is instructive to their eventual ruling in our case. Writing for the majority, Judge Brown stated:

As this case shows, what the [National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”)] proffers as a sophisticated tool towards national uniformity can just as easily be an instrument of oppression, allowing the government to tell its citizens: “We don’t care what the law says, if you want to beat us, you will have to fight us” … We recognize the [NLRB’s] unimpeded access to the public fisc means these modest fees can be dismissed as chump change. But money does not explain the Board’s bad faith; “the pleasure of being above the rest” does. See C.S. Lewis, MERE CHRISTIANITY 122 (Harper Collins 2001). Let the word go forth: for however much the judiciary has emboldened the administrative state, we “say what the law is.” Marbury, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) at 177. In other words, administrative hubris does not get the last word under our Constitution. And citizens can count on it.1

In another decision (DirecTV, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board), Judge Brown was even more direct about the perils of unchecked executive action when she noted that: “Judicial review should mean more than batting cleanup for the administrative state.”2 If applied in equal measure, these sentiments bode well for our case.

Finding no clear reason in favor of extraordinary secrecy, U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Margaret Sweeney (Fairholme Fund (Trades, Portfolio)s v. United States, No. 1:13-cv-00465-MMS) recognized that the government’s attempt to hide thousands of documents is unjustifiable, for the work of our government must withstand public scrutiny. Judge Sweeney issued a court order directing the Obama Administration to produce scores of documents that were improperly withheld based on assertions of deliberative process privilege, bank examiner privilege, and presidential communications privilege. Her decision was largely upheld upon review by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. In due course, we expect further proof that Obama Administration officials violated laws established by our founding fathers to prevent such unfettered discretion. Alexander Hamilton said it best:

The nature of the contract in its origin is, that the public will pay the sum expected in the security, to the first holder, or his assignee. The intent, in making the security assignable, is, that the proprietor may be able to make use of his property, by selling it for as much as it may be worth in the market, and that the buyer may be safe in the purchase. Every buyer therefore stands exactly in the place of the seller, has the same right with him to the identical sum expressed in the security and having acquired the right, by fair purchase, and in conformity to the original agreement and intention of the government, his claim cannot be disputed, without manifest injustice.3

We are frequently asked (i) why we own the preferred stock of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac instead of common shares, and (ii) how this story ends. Our answers are simple: the provisions of the preferred stock contracts that we own provide us with greater security and certainty than the common stock and, as you know, we are not speculators. In this instance, we have invested in two superb insurance companies with unparalleled brand recognition, talented human capital, proprietary information technology infrastructure, and robust industry relationships. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are quintessential examples of what Warren Buffett (Trades, Portfolios) would describe as “economic castles protected by unbreachable moats.” As interest rates rise, Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s portfolios become even more valuable – and we anticipate that Q4 2016 results will reflect this positive impact. Allow me to emphasize a few points that you may have heard before:

Any intellectually honest observer would proffer that the rational steps for resolution are: (i) halt the payment of any further monies to the United States Treasury; (ii) permit the companies to retain capital in order to protect taxpayers; (iii) transform the companies into low-risk, public utilities with regulated rates of return, just like your local electric company; and (iv) eventually release them from the shackles of a perpetual conservatorship so they can help more low- and moderate-income families move up the economic ladder. Only the disingenuous would assert that recapitalization of these companies would take decades and come at taxpayers’ expense, as if retaining earnings precluded the ability of each company to raise equity from private investors. Only those beholden to special interests would ignore the substantial reforms implemented at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over the last eight years and pretend the companies are somehow doomed to repeat the past upon release from conservatorship. And only those who oppose the dream of homeownership for America’s middle class would attempt to dismantle two publicly traded, shareholder-owned companies that have singlehandedly provided over $7 trillion in liquidity to support our mortgage market since 2009. We are optimistic that the indispensability of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to affordable homeownership eventually overpowers the taboo imposed upon them by the previous Washington establishment.

Sears Holdings Corporation

Focusing on tangible assets has served us over many years, but most believe Sears (NASDAQ: SHLD) to be the exception to the rule. Disruptive technologies; near-zero cost of capital; and few, if any, legacy obligations provide young competitors with great advantages over old-line operators. Today, Airbnb is the largest lodging company in the world without owning a single hotel room. Uber is the world’s largest taxi company without owning a car (and perhaps soon without utilizing a single driver). Intuit’s Rocket Mortgage lends only via the net. Amazon crushes competition without a physical retail footprint. Mega-tech companies are now trusted in all aspects of personal and corporate life. I’m reminded of this every day by my Fairholme team, our clients, fellow directors at Sears, and friends.

Bottom line: Sears has degraded net asset values, but there is still much left and the company is fixing its cash drain. Recent corporate announcements – including (i) the proposed sale of Craftsman to Stanley Black and Decker for a cumulative $775 million plus a 15-year royalty stream on all third-party Craftsman sales to new customers and the use of a perpetual license for the Craftsman brand by Sears (royalty free) for 15 years; (ii) shuttering 150 unprofitable stores in 2017 on top of the roughly 235 stores that were closed in 2016; and (iii) marketing certain properties within the company’s real estate portfolio to further unlock value – reflect an acceleration in the company’s transformation efforts consistent with Chairman Eddie Lampert’s recent public comments:

[In late September 2016], we announced a partnership between Shop Your Way, Sears Auto Centers and Uber. This is another example of how we are transforming Sears Holdings to focus on serving our Shop Your Way members … Expect additional partnerships over time emphasizing our Shop Your Way business … Kmart continues to operate over 700 stores … a significant number of these stores are profitable … we are intent on improving the performance of our unprofitable stores and, if we cannot, we will close them … We are acting more aggressively and continuing to evaluate stores as leases expire and as other opportunities present themselves that improve the economics of Sears Holdings. Our significant asset base gives us the wherewithal to fund our business, but we don’t intend to use our asset value to support losses.4

Seritage Growth Properties

Fortune Magazine notes that “there is still a lot of life in that American mainstay, the suburban mall,” but the tenant mix is shifting to accommodate new consumer preferences.5 Indeed, growing demand for “very un-mall-like grocery stores, spin-class fitness shops, and entertainment centers” presents attractive opportunities for landlords such as Seritage, who can convert existing retail square footage to “non-retail spaces that people want.”6 In 18 months, Seritage (NYSE:SRG) has re-leased 2.2 million square feet and commenced or completed 48 wholly owned redevelopment projects. Sears now represents 65% of signed lease revenue; down from 90%. Headlines overlook this renter diversification and ignore Seritage’s acceleration with large mixed-use redevelopments in Santa Monica (California), Aventura (Florida), Hicksville (New York), and Redmond (Washington).

The St. Joe Company

To outperform in sports, you must go to where the ball will be – not where it already is. The same is true of investing and our investment in St. Joe (NYSE:JOE). Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, the newest U.S. international airport, is approaching 1,000,000 “travel legs” per year. Becca Hardin, President of the Bay Economic Development Alliance, which helps bring business to the airport and surrounding area, recently commented: “We’ve got a couple of really hot prospects that are looking at some sites in VentureCrossings … We think 2017 is going to be the year that some of these projects come into fruition and we will be able to announce them.”7 Joe is growing and has the assets and entitlements to meet multi-generational demand for affordable housing, commercial facilities, healthcare, education, and transportation. See for yourself at and – you’ll get the idea. As St. Joe’s Chairman, I cordially invite you to visit the beginning of Florida’s newest metropolis.

Imperial Metals Corporation (TSX:III)

Depressed copper prices made for a challenging operating environment during much of 2016, and Imperial ended the year with a C$65 million equity offering to improve liquidity – diluting each share of common stock by approximately 15%. Nevertheless, Imperial managed to successfully launch Red Chris and mining operations are running at full capacity. On our most recent site visit, we observed large quantities of “rock” being moved to access concentrated mineralization and finish tailing dam embankments. We expect the company to spend 2017 fine tuning its recovery processes and widening the mining pit. Improved copper prices and higher recovery rates will enable profitable operations, a reduction of leverage, and execution of a plan to double or triple mining production at this world-class asset.

Chesapeake Energy Corporation

In early 2016, news on all things related to oil and natural gas devoted little coverage to how declining commodity prices were forcing energy companies to reduce supply, lower debt, and cut operating costs. Time and again, history shows that a commodity price forges its own anchor. Our credit investments in Chesapeake Energy (NYSE:CHK) performed exceptionally well in 2016 due to the combination of operational efficiencies driving down unit costs, higher natural gas prices, and success with debt buybacks and asset sales.

Atwood Oceanics, Inc.

Stressed energy markets led us to invest in senior bonds of offshore driller Atwood Oceanics (NYSE:ATW). The bonds were purchased at attractive prices relative to the backlog of future cash flow from drilling operations and the value of Atwood’s modernized fleet. Thus far, Atwood has weathered tough conditions as the industry slowly rebalances between rig supply and demand in a lower commodity price environment. Atwood’s management has reduced cash operating costs by 25% while extending contracts with customers and suppliers. Atwood also reduced the outstanding senior bond class by over 30% through debt repurchases and raised liquidity through an equity offering. All actions combine to give us comfort that Atwood is positioned to capitalize on the eventual upcycle.

A New Administration

America’s newly installed executive branch intends to rebuild a working class that forms the bedrock for economic and social progress. Reduced regulation and corporate tax cuts will lower hurdles and raise earnings. Fiscal stimulus will further advance both. We look forward to these initiatives, realize markets are not cheap, and understand that “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Irrespective of whether purchasing bonds or stocks, Fairholme is constantly evaluating how to optimize investment returns and minimize chances of permanent loss. That’s why we purchased securities of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Sears, and others – after all, our job is to create sustainable wealth.

Respectfully submitted,

Bruce R. Berkowitz

Chief Investment Officer

1. Heartland Plymouth Court MI, LLC v. N.L.R.B., No. 15-1034 (D.C. Cir. Sept. 30, 2016).

2. DirecTV, Inc. v. N.L.R.B., No. 11-1273 (D.C. Cir. Sept. 16, 2016).

3. Alexander Hamilton, Writings (The Library of America) 538.

4. Eddie Lampert, “Committed to our Members, Kmart and our Transformation.

5. Phil Wahba, “Simon Property Group Fights to Reinvent the Shopping Mall,” Fortune Magazine, 2 December 2016.

6. Ibid.

7. Brauer, Carey, “Officials look to lure development to VentureCrossings,” Panama City News Herald, 26 January 2017.

Mutual fund investing involves risks, including possible loss of principal. Unless otherwise specified, all information is shown as of December 31, 2016. Past performance information quoted below does not guarantee future results. The investment return and principal value of an investment in The Fairholme Fund, The Fairholme Focused Income Fund (“The Income Fund”), and The Fairholme Allocation Fund (“The Allocation Fund”), (each being a “Fund” and collectively, the “Funds”), will fluctuate so that the value of an investor’s shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Current performance may be lower or higher than the performance information quoted below. Performance figures reflect the deduction of expenses and assume reinvestment of dividends and capital gains but do not reflect a 2.00% redemption fee imposed by The Fairholme Fund and The Allocation Fund on shares redeemed or exchanged within 60 calendar days of their purchase. Most recent month-end performance and answers to any questions you may have can be obtained by calling Shareholder Services at (866) 202-2263. Each Fund maintains a focused portfolio of investments in a limited number of issuers and does not seek to diversify its investments. This exposes each Fund to the risk of unanticipated industry conditions and risks particular to a single company or the securities of a single company within its respective portfolio. The S&P 500 Index (the “S&P 500”) is a widely recognized, unmanaged index of 500 of the largest companies in the United States as measured by market capitalization and the performance of the S&P 500 assumes the reinvestment of all dividends and distributions. The Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index (the “Bloomberg Barclays Bond Index”) is a broad-based flagship benchmark that measures the investment grade, U.S. dollar-denominated, fixed-rate taxable bond market, and includes Treasuries, government-related and corporate securities, MBS (agency fixed-rate and hybrid ARM pass-throughs), ABS and CMBS (agency and non-agency). The S&P 500 and the Bloomberg Barclays Bond Index are used for comparative purposes only, and are not meant to be indicative of a Fund’s performance, asset composition, or volatility. A Fund’s performance may differ markedly from the performance of the S&P 500 or the Bloomberg Barclays Bond Index in either up or down market trends. Because indices cannot be invested in directly, these index returns do not reflect a deduction for fees, expenses, or taxes. The expense ratios for The Fairholme Fund, The Income Fund, and The Allocation Fund reflected in the current prospectus dated March 29, 2016, are 1.04%, 1.01%, and 1.01%, respectively, and may differ from the actual expenses incurred by the Funds for the period covered by the Funds’ Annual Report. The expense ratio includes any acquired fund fees and expenses which are incurred indirectly by each Fund as a result of investments in securities issued by one or more investment companies.

7 Childhood Lessons for Growing Adult Success

The following column from Phoebe Venable, CapWealth Advisors President & COO, appeared in The Tennessean on January 27, 2017.

Every year, my firm hosts “Money Camp” for our clients’ children and grandchildren. We believe that even young children can, and should, learn the basics of spending, saving, investing and charitable giving. But there are other critical lessons that only a parent can teach their children. Lessons in confidence, self-reliance, perseverance, inquisitiveness, kindness and hard work. Lessons that not only forge character, but could have a direct correlation one day to your adult child’s personal and professional success.

1. Master the handshake.

In the movie “My Life,” Michael Keaton’s character is dying of cancer and decides to film advice for his unborn child. One memorable scene is his demonstration of how to properly shake hands. It’s big, bold, funny — and spot-on. Our children, boys and girls, need the confidence to make and keep eye contact when they meet other people and to give a firm handshake. As social psychologist Amy Cuddy explains in one of the most popular TED Talks of all time, our body language can change not only other people’s perceptions of us but even our own brain’s testosterone and cortisol levels — which, too, can impact success.

2. Get a job.

Nothing teaches the value of hard work quite like — you got it — hard work. Whether it’s a part-time job, a summer job and/or responsibilities at home, children will learn essential life lessons through work. That monetary reward requires labor and with that labor also comes other rewards — a well-deserved sense of accomplishment, for instance. Additionally: time and project management, goal setting, teamwork, punctuality and more.

3. Hone communication skills.

We live in a world of powerful, omnipresent communication devices. Knowing how to use those is important. Knowing how to speak and write well are still indispensable to explaining, selling, inspiring and leading. Parents, make sure your children are learning to present their ideas and address groups in school. If your kid is selling candy or magazines to neighbors for a school fundraiser, or peddling their lawn-mowing services, help them concoct a polite, persuasive pitch. Make sure they can compose clear, cogent, complete sentences. Jargon, shorthand and emoticons don’t cut it in the business world. A sure-fire way to improve communication skills: read books.

4. Cultivate curiosity.

Encourage children to ask questions. When they ask questions about the world, they’ll learn, often by being compelled to go find answers for themselves. Hopefully they’ll also learn to listen, care more and understand what motivates people. That’s becoming smarter and more human, and people like that go far in life.

5. Know how to change a tire.

It’s not only a practically useful skill for the day your child has a flat, but it will help instill in your children self-sufficiency. To look for solutions when the unexpected arises. To feel equal to a challenge. To think and act under pressure. To understand that doing something yourself is often more effective, efficient and satisfactory than outsourcing it to others.

6. Volunteer.

There’s more to life than work and play. There are great causes for improving the world, as well as other people, often less fortunate, that need our help. “No man is an island,” wrote the poet John Donne. We’re all a piece of a larger continent — be it a family, a neighborhood, a community, a nation or the world. Get your children involved through Scouting, church or organizations such as Hands On Nashville or Second Harvest Food Bank. Helping others will expand your child’s mind and heart.

7. Acquire some financial grounding.

There is a financial component to nearly every endeavor, including any business, running a household and planning for retirement. Ensure your children understand the basics before they graduate high school: income, expenses, profits, interest, inflation, return, risk, liquidity and the time value of money, to name a few.

Phoebe Venable, chartered financial analyst, is president and COO of CapWealth Advisors, LLC. Her column on women, families and building wealth appears every other Saturday in The Tennessean.

Investing in a Changing World Requires Constant Study

The following column from Jennifer Pagliara, CapWealth Senior Advisor, appeared in The Tennessean on December 23, 2016.

Getty Images/iStockPhoto

I came across an online Buzzfeed article called “29 Things Millennials Killed This Year.” After rolling my eyes for what promised to be yet another piece of negative coverage regarding my generation, I scrolled on. It was a series of screenshots from various news sources with headlines such as “Blame Millennials for the Vanishing Bar of Soap.” “How Millennials Ended the Running Boom.” “Millennials Are Killing the Golf Industry.” “The Death Throes of Democracy: Murdered by Millennials.” The headlines were hilarious — and to a large extent, the news they conveyed was legitimate. Millennials are changing products, the market, the way we consume, oftentimes in dramatic ways.

Change is constant

But then, as a financial adviser, I remembered: Products, markets and consumption are always changing. Much of the change above isn’t just about millennial whims. It’s technological innovation, which millennials embrace. And though the speed of change has ramped up, change has always been a constant. In 1958, the average lifespan of an S&P 500 company was 61 years. In 1980, it was 25 years. Today, it’s 18 years. At the current churn rate, 75 percent of the S&P will be replaced by 2027! Which is why the person behind your investment portfolio — be that you, your adviser or the manager of the mutual fund you’re in — better be sharp, informed, a tireless learner and a part-time economist, accountant, world affairs expert and more.

Know your adviser

You should know your financial adviser. What kind of person they are, how they think and what their overall record is. We believe the same goes for the executives of the companies you invest in. Our firm certainly does. In fact, we endeavor to know all we can about the C-suite and their companies — both before we purchase their stock for our clients and for the lifetime of our clients’ positions in that stock. We study their financials, looking for hidden or unrealized value; we monitor changes in management and their competitive position; we watch for new product developments or technological advancements. Meanwhile, we’re just as vigilant about the macroeconomic factors beyond a company’s control: currency fluctuations, inflation, fiscal policy, regulation, trade agreements, cyclical correlations and much, much more.

How do we do this? Through Wall Street research, industry sources, conferences, personal meetings with management, personal meetings with customers, competitors and suppliers, SEC filings, news publications and news media, and constant and comprehensive data analysis.

Choose investments wisely

The challenge in investing, just like in everyday life, is aligning unreasonable expectations with reality. Our due diligence process helps us identify sustainable business models, trading at attractive valuations and governed by high-quality, shareholder-focused management teams. At the same time, it helps us avoid the high-flying stocks whose valuations are based on wildly overly optimistic expectations for the future. Searching for strong business models and strong management teams has another benefit. It leads us to companies that can not only weather but thrive in today’s world of technology-driven change and disruptive innovation.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus, known for his doctrine that change is central to the universe, once said, “You never step twice into the same river.” Every day is a new day in the world of investing. Be sure you or your investment professional is up to the task.

Jennifer Pagliara is a financial adviser with CapWealth Advisors. Her column appears every other week in The Tennessean.

CapWealth Advisors’ John Lueken Selected to Nashville Zoo Board of Directors

The CapWealth Advisors team congratulates Chief Investment Strategist John Lueken for his appointment to the Nashville Zoo’s Board of Directors!

Chief Investment Strategist John Lueken

The Nashville Zoo is an amazing place and all of middle Tennessee is indeed fortunate to have such a fine zoo for delighting and educating our children and ourselves. We might say the same of John’s selection to the zoo’s board–they are fortunate to have such a dynamic and talented professional as John join their midst! John’s family loves the zoo (his young daughter and son in particular!), he’s volunteered his time to the capital campaign committee for the last couple of years and zoo involvement may even be a family tradition. Dr. Jeff Bonner, a relative of John’s, was a member of the prestigious Saint Louis Zoo board of directors for many years. Please join us in congratulating John the next time you see him!

A few facts that you might not know about the Nashville Zoo:

  • 2017 is the 20th anniversary of the Nashville Zoo at the Grassmere location.  The zoo will open four new animal exhibits (white rhino, spider monkey, Sumatran tiger and Andean bear) in 2017.  The zoo forecasts its  2016 end-of-year attendance to be 875,000 people and is hopeful to hit 1,000,000 visitors in 2017!
  • The Nashville Zoo received several awards and recognition in 2016.  One of the most notable is that the Nashville Zoo received a perfect score of 100 from Charity Navigator, an organization that ranks non-profits on their fiscal responsibility and donor relations, and is one of only 49 charities in the United States that received a perfect score of 100!
  • The Nashville Zoo is internationally known for our conservation efforts in Asia, Africa and South America.  The zoo has been awarded the AZA’s (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) highest international award for our conservation work with the GRACE project (working with gorillas) in the Congo.


FirstBank’s Founder and Chairman Jim Ayers Talks “Family, Legacy, Employees” in Nashville Business Journal

The following feature appeared as the cover story of the December 9, 2016, edition of the Nashville Business Journal. Written by Meg Garner. Read the online version here.

Nathan Morgan, Nashville Business Journal

Nathan Morgan, Nashville Business Journal

When Jim Ayers opened the first location of FirstBank in Lexington, Tenn., in 1988, it was the first time a bank had opened in the West Tennessee town in years. It drew such interest that state troopers had to help control the crowds, as folks flooded the community’s main thoroughfare to catch a glimpse of the new bank. At the end of that first day, Ayers sat in one of the bank’s back offices with his feet on the desk and told himself that his venture into banking was going to be good.

More than $3.2 billion in assets, $2.6 billion in deposits and 28 years later, FirstBank is the state’s eighth-largest bank, according to federal data. But now, at the age of 72, Ayers was faced with the one decision no business owner wants to make: What happens to his company when he can no longer steer the ship?

“If I had my preference, I’d never retire and keep doing exactly what I’m doing until I’m 90 or 100 years old,” Ayers said from FirstBank’s downtown Nashville offices.

But as FirstBank’s sole shareholder, Ayers had to make a contingency plan for when he could no longer run the bank. And since he owned the bank outright, Ayers felt he only had three viable options: pass the business to an heir, sell the bank or go public.

The answer came in September, when Ayers rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange. That day he relinquished 30 percent of his control, and the Nashville-based lender brought home $115 million in new capital, making its initial public offering the largest bank IPO in Tennessee history.

The road to FirstBank’s IPO was not a short one. In fact, it took Ayers nearly five years to execute.

Weighing his options

Before consulting his estate planners or attorneys, Ayers asked his son, Jon, the loaded question: Would he take the reins at FirstBank?

For Ayers, having his son take over his role at the bank was a simple solution to his estate planning, partly because it meant FirstBank would remain a family-owned business.

Unlike his father, Jon Ayers, 44, began his career in banking. The younger Ayers has run branches, worked in FirstBank’s credit department and serves on the bank’s board of directors. He was the ideal candidate in his father’s eyes.

But Jon Ayers, who declined to comment for this story, turned his father down in favor of spearheading the family’s commercial real estate investments under Ayers Asset Management.

“He wanted to be known for running his own business, and I didn’t fight him on it,” Jim Ayers said.

Still, his son’s refusal to run the business he built was difficult for Ayers, especially since the elder Ayers had once begged his own father to take over his family’s saw mill in Parsons, Tenn., only to be rebuffed.

“[My father] said he was not going to see me work the rest of my life like he had to work, so I was going to go ahead and get an education,” Jim Ayers said.

With his hopes of passing FirstBank to an heir off the table, Ayers was left with two options, one of which would involve surrendering complete control of the business he spent 30 years building.

Selling FirstBank was a nonstarter for Ayers, and not because he was unwilling to give up the corner office.

Ayers felt he owed more to his employees, who had invested in making FirstBank the company it is today.

“I could sell this bank, and do it pretty quick. They’d be lining up at the door,” he said.

“But the idea of selling this bank and half the employees losing their jobs, I couldn’t do it, and I didn’t have to  do it. … I am not going to preside over a huge layoff.”

It was not the first time he made a move he thought was best for his employees. In the mid-1990s, he divested his stake in American Health Centers, the nursing home business he founded, by initiating an employee stockownership plan. But Ayers said such plans, which turn over control of a business to employees, do not work as well today, so converting FirstBank into one was never a viable option in his mind.

That left one choice. So Ayers and his team, led in large part by the bank’s CEO Chris Holmes, began the process of filing for an IPO — a decision that sett off another year and a half of planning.

Learning a new game

Ayers said when he told his board members of his plans, they told him he was signing himself up for a “new lifestyle,” especially since the bank’s regulatory scrutiny would increase and the independent Ayers would have to answer to fellow shareholders.

During the IPO planning, Ayers relied heavily on Holmes to help him understand what changes to expect.

“Ninety-eight to 99 percent of what goes on, goes on without me,” Ayers said. “Chris Holmes is very capable of running this bank. My value is on the strategic side.”

Ayers said he hired Holmes in 2010 as the bank’s director of operations to see if the fellow University of Memphis alumnus could cut it as the bank’s CEO. Since then, Ayers said his recruit has proven himself time and again, particularly now since Holmes has experience managing a publicly traded company.

“It’s probably the only thing that I have more experience than him with,” said Holmes, who was CEO of National Commerce Financial Corp. in Memphis and chief retail banking officer for the South Financial Group in Greenville, S.C. “For a while, working with him on [the IPO] became the majority part of my schedule.”

Holmes said after spending hours talking through the new rules, it was clear that Ayers would be able to adapt.

“It might take me some time, but I can learn the rules,” Ayers said.

Following the bank’s public offering, Ayers controls about 70 percent of FirstBank. So while he gave up a portion of the company’s shares, he maintains a controlling stake in FirstBank — which means he still has the final word on the bank’s big decisions.

But for Ayers, the most difficult part of taking his bank public is having a fiscal responsibility to others. The financial impact that a strong quarter versus a weak quarter can have on the company’s share price weighs on Ayers.

It’s no longer just about his own pocketbook. He’s now responsible for other shareholders’ money.

‘Right thing to do’

It was Ayers’ fellow FirstBank board member and longtime friend Gordon Inman who helped the bank’s management team convince Ayers that going public was the right decision, when the bank chief questioned whether the process was worth it.

“I just kept saying, ‘Jim, this is the right thing for you to do, for your family and for your loyal employees,’” Inman said. “I just kept pounding that into him, and it finally soaked in.”

Like Holmes, Inman said Ayers struggled with the implications of having fellow shareholders and how it would change his day-to-day routine.

He also wanted to make sure he took care of the most important shareholders: his employees. Ayers awarded each of FirstBank’s employees a certain number of shares, based on their salary and years of service.

As for his own retirement plans, Ayers hopes to spend the next three to five years, or as long as his health allows, right where he is now, running the bank. Ayers said physically his body is strong, but acknowledged he suffers from vision and hearing loss, which is why his employees are more likely to find him meeting at the small, round table in his office rather than the board room.

It is at that same small table that Ayers laid out what he hopes his legacy will be once he walks away from the business he spent three decades building.

“I’ve got a grandson, Jay, and 20 years from now, if he’s walking down the street and somebody says, ‘Are you related to Jim Ayers?’ He’ll say yes, and I hope that fella says to him, ‘He was a good man,’” Ayers said. “Not a wealthy man, a smart man or a powerful man. Just a good man.”


October 1984: Jim Ayers and Steve White buy Scotts Hill, Tenn.-based Farmers State Bank, which had $14 million in assets.

July 1988: Ayers buys the National Bank of Lexington, merging with Farmers State and buying out White. Ayers becomes the bank’s sole shareholder, moves its headquarters to Lexington, Tenn., and changes its name to First Bank.

February 1996: Ayers completes the acquisition of the Bank of West Tennessee in Jackson, Tenn. He also buys a NationsBank branch in Camden, Tenn., this year.

August 2000: Ayers acquires Bank of Huntingdon, another small West Tennessee bank.

November 2001: First Bank opens its first Nashville office, which becomes the bank’s first metro market. FirstBank opens its first Memphis branch this year, too.

June 2003: First Bank completes a $26.8 million acquisition of Rutherford County’s Bank of Murfreesboro. Following the deal, First Bank passes $1 billion in total assets.

November 2006: First Bank buys seven branches from AmSouth Bank, bringing First Bank’s total assets to nearly $2 billion.

November 2007: First Bank announces plans to open 12 branches in five years and enter six new Middle Tennessee markets.

February 2010: Chris Holmes joins First Bank as its chief banking officer.

January 2013: Holmes becomes First Bank’s CEO, after becoming president in April 2012.

March 2014: First Bank announces its first full-service branch in Huntsville, Ala., combining operations with its existing mortgage business.

February 2015: The bank officially registers its name as FirstBank.

May 2015: Ayers buys Ringgold, Ga.-based Northwest Georgia Bank, boosting the bank’s presence in neighboring Chattanooga. FirstBank officially moves its headquarters to Nashville.

August 2016: Ayers files paperwork for FirstBank’s initial public offering.

September 2016: FirstBank debuts on the New York Stock Exchange, pricing above expectations and raising $128 million.

Will Trump Election Usher in a New Economic Cycle?

The following column from Phoebe Venable, CapWealth Advisors President & COO, appeared in The Tennessean on December 2, 2016.


So much in life moves in cycles. Cycles are so common, in fact, that we oftentimes take them for granted — in day and night, the seasons, weather, biology, even businesses and the financial markets.

Over the course of a regular economic cycle, our economy expands and peaks before contracting and ending in a trough. Those four phases represent the natural rise and fall of economic growth that happens over time. The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) uses quarterly Gross Domestic Product growth rates to determine economic (also called business) cycles, and our government tries to manage the economic cycle using fiscal and monetary policy. The goal is to strike a delicate balance: keeping the economy at a healthy growth rate that’s fast enough to create jobs for anyone who wants one but slow enough to avoid too much inflation.

The phases of the economic cycle

Savvy investors understand this cycle and how each phase has different economic fundamentals that affect sectors of the economy — broad categories, such as technology, healthcare, telecommunications and energy, to name a few — in different ways. Some sectors and investment asset classes — equities (stocks), fixed income (bonds), cash equivalents (money market instruments), real estate and commodities — will thrive during a certain phase of the economic cycle while others will struggle. As the economic cycle moves from one phase to the next, investors rotate their capital out of existing sectors and asset classes into the next group expected to thrive in the new phase of the economic cycle. Rotation in the markets happens as a result of the process of always investing capital in the strongest performing sectors of the economy.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the economic cycle occurred with as much regularity and predictability as Mother Nature’s cycle of seasons? The calendar tells us when to expect winter — though this year’s fall was like an extenuation of summer! — but there is no economic cycle calendar that investors can use to know when to buy or sell any asset class. It isn’t quite clear and it isn’t easy, but investors can look at key economic data points for signs or clues that the economic cycle may be changing.

Many investors see Trump ushering in a new cycle

It appears that many investors see Donald Trump’s surprising presidential victory as an indication that the economy cycle may be changing. According to data provider EPFR, in the week ending Nov. 16, investors withdrew $8.2 billion from U.S. bond funds. EPFR also reports that stock mutual funds and ETFs had inflows of $44.6 billion in the seven days following the election. It appears investors are rotating from bonds to stocks. Since the election, U.S. treasuries have plunged in price as yields have soared. Remember the playground teeter totter? Think of bonds working like a teeter totter with price on one end and yield on the other. As price goes down, yield goes up. It’s been a wild ride on the bond teeter totter since Election Day’s 1.88 percent yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note to this week’s 2.32 percent.

Bond yields have been declining for basically the past 30 years. Everyone seems to be asking the question, “Is the 30-year bull market in bonds over?” Trump’s victory has certainly increased expectations for higher interest rates, more government spending and increased inflation, all of which are bad for bonds. The result is a significant likelihood that we have seen the 30-year top in bond prices. Investors recognize the clues and are moving their capital from bonds to stocks. Of course, it’s too soon to draw conclusions about President-Elect Trump’s economic plans and how they’ll sway on our economy despite the current rotation in the financial markets.

If you are wondering how the market rotation could impact your investment returns, I urge you to give your financial adviser a call.

Phoebe Venable, chartered financial analyst, is president and COO of CapWealth Advisors. Her column on women, families and building wealth appears every other Friday in The Tennessean. To learn more about her or her firm, visit

Financial Times: Fannie and Freddie Investors Look to Trump

The following article by Tom Braithwaite was published by The Financial Times on November 25, 2016. See the online article here.


It is the curse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Since the mortgage insurers were bailed out in 2008, some of the most renowned US investors — from John Paulson to Bill Ackman to Richard Perry — have piled into their shares and suffered mysterious losses in their once rock-solid portfolios.

Bruce Berkowitz is another. The founder of Fairholme Capital Management bet on the preferred shares in 2012 and then came a cropper on unrelated investments. A Morningstar “Manager of the Decade” in 2010, Mr Berkowitz’s mutual funds have since trailed the market.

Like the other men, he has gone as far as suing the US government to try to extract value from his Fannie and Freddie stakes. “We’re not asking for a cheque,” he says. But he does want the government to end a four-year-old practice of taking all the institutions’ profits, which has starved other shareholders. “You’ve done very well. You’ve been paid tens of billions. Stop.”

Since the US presidential election, the common shares have surged about 50 per cent on the belief that Donald Trump will relax the government’s stranglehold. Mr Berkowitz, who says “we crossed break-even last week”, is also investing hope in the new team — “maybe you don’t want them to marry your sister or your daughter but they’ve had some success in their lives”.

There are three reasons why Mr Trump might want to break the hex: causing embarrassment, giving payback and building a war chest. First, embarrassment. The Bush administration took warrants for 80 per cent of the equity and preferred stock and a 10 per cent dividend on the bailout funds. In 2012, the Obama administration changed the terms. Instead of taking a dividend, it simply “swept” all the profits. The excuse was that the lossmaking companies might enter a “death spiral” if they had to keep drawing on the bailout money to pay an increasing dividend. The reality was that the companies were about to become very profitable as the housing market recovered; the switcheroo has diverted billions of dollars to the Treasury, which has received more than $250bn in dividend payments since 2008.

In court, disgruntled private shareholders have attempted to extract emails and memos between Mr Obama’s closest advisers and the president himself. They believe those documents will show that the government was concocting a fiction with its “death spiral” argument to prevent the companies’ renaissance.

The Justice Department has fought tooth and nail to keep those documents secret, citing a panoply of presidential privileges. When a judge rejected them and ordered the documents handed over to the plaintiffs, government lawyers filed an emergency appeal, which is still pending.

Mr Trump’s lawyers might keep up the fight. After all, they might want to rely on the same arguments to protect their own secrets in the future. It is also possible that in spite of the dubious reasoning and the ferocious attempt to keep them secret, that the emails are not that embarrassing after all. But it is still a good bet that the stance on protecting the prior administration’s secrets will change. That is only one part of one lawsuit, but it is likely to weaken the government’s overall case that the profit sweep was legal.

Second, payback. When most of Wall Street backed Hillary Clinton, John Paulson was a rare supporter of Mr Trump. The hedge fund manager is also the second biggest non-government shareholder in Freddie Mac, according to data from S&P Capital IQ. If Mr Trump wanted to reward his ally in a privatisation, Mr Paulson’s stake would leap in value.

Third, the war chest. In a dream privatisation, the Treasury would exchange its warrants for 80 per cent of the shares and then sell them to the public, much as it did in AIG, for a price tag that could reach $200bn. That could help fund a Trump infrastructure plan or build a big wall on the Mexican border.

One obstacle is that Fannie and Freddie are being starved of capital under the current regime. They would need an adequate capital buffer before they were privatised — they could get there by retaining earnings but that would take years. A quicker remedy would be to sell new equity to institutional investors. The dilution would be severe for all shareholders but still might offer some upside and sizeable spending money to the government.

Does embarrassing adversaries, rewarding friends and assembling a war chest sound like something Mr Trump might like? The biggest problem is Republican lawmakers.

Many of them — including putative Trump Treasury secretary Jeb Hensarling — have been fiercely opposed to the companies re-emerging in the same public-private form. Then again, at the start of his administration, Mr Trump will have the clout. If he can grasp all the benefits, it would be foolish to bet against him lifting the curse.

Feds Seek to Block Release of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Memos

The following Fortune article by Roger Parloff appeared online on October 27, 2016.

A stands outside Fannie Mae headquarters in Washington February 21, 2014. Fannie Mae said on Friday it would soon send the U.S. Treasury $7.2 billion, a profit-related dividend that makes taxpayers whole for the 2008 bailout of the mortgage-finance giant and its sibling company Freddie Mac. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque  (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS REAL ESTATE) - RTX199GU

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Invoking an emergency procedure Wednesday evening, the Justice Department appealed a judge’s order that would force the government to turn over at least 56 documents that might shed light on why mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were effectively nationalized in August 2012.

The department argues that Court of Federal Claims judge Margaret Sweeney’s 80-page order on September 20, rejecting the government’s claims of executive privilege over those documents, engaged in “cursory” and “uncritical, rote analysis,” and rested “on a misunderstanding of the principles that govern the privileges.”

The action comes in a set of consolidated lawsuits filed by shareholders of the two Fortune 50 companies who say that the 2012 event—in which the Treasury Department and Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) dramatically altered the terms of the two firms’ federal bailouts, all but wiping out the value of their stock—amounted to a “taking” of property without just compensation in violation of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. (The bailout began in early September 2008, on the eve of the financial crisis, when FHFA, with Treasury’s approval, placed the two government sponsored enterprises into conservatorship.)

Because Judge Sweeney’s order is not subject to ordinary appeal, the government is taking the issue to the appellate court—the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit—by means of a procedural mechanism known as “mandamus.” Mandamus is considered an extraordinary remedy reserved for instances in which a judge has committed clear error or an abuse of discretion that will have severe, irreversible consequences. The device has sometimes been used successfully in the past to challenge orders rejecting privilege claims.

“We firmly believe that Judge Sweeney correctly rejected the government’s claims of privilege,” says Charles Cooper, the lead attorney for plaintiff Fairholme Funds, in an interview, “and we will strenuously oppose the government’s petition for mandamus.” Fairholme, a group of mutual funds founded by activist investor Bruce Berkowitz, has led the charge to wrest the documents into the open.

By merely bringing the mandamus petition, however, the government has already made it more challenging for Fairholme’s attorneys to achieve one of their objectives. Ideally, they would like to get their hands on the documents in time to show them to a different federal appeals court—the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit—before the latter issues a ruling in a related set of cases challenging the same 2012 event.

The D.C. Circuit is now reviewing the September 2015 decision of U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth in Washington, D.C., who threw out a number of investor suits challenging the 2012 change in bailout terms on a different legal theory: namely, that Treasury and FHFA exceeded their federal statutory powers when they did so. The investors in the cases before Lamberth were not entitled to discovery, but Fairholme’s attorneys have been bringing to the D.C. Circuit’s attention documents Fairholme has already successfully harvested through the discovery process before Judge Sweeney, and they had hoped to show that court these 56 documents, too.

Because the D.C. Circuit heard oral arguments on Judge Lamberth’s ruling in April, it could render a decision any day.

In the mandamus petition filed Wednesday, the government contends that the 56 documents at issue before Judge Sweeney—which were generated at the Treasury Department, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, or the White House—are protected by at least three evidentiary privileges designed to ensure that federal executive officials can have frank and open discussions of important policy issues: the “deliberative process privilege,” the “bank examiners privilege,” and—weightiest of all—”presidential privilege.”

The government claimed presidential privilege for four of the 56 documents, which are memos or emails that contain input from President Barack Obama’s then National Economic Council director Gene Sperling, deputy director Brian Deese, and senior advisor James Parrott. Sperling is currently acting as an economic advisor to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Although Judge Sweeney’s order specifically concerns 56 documents, which she reviewed in her chambers, they were selected by plaintiffs lawyers from among some 12,000 documents for which the government had asserted privileges. Based on how the documents were described in the government’s “privilege log”—a list a litigant is required to draw up when it is refuses to produce a document on the basis of a privilege—the investors’ lawyers chose those specific 56 as representative of all 12,000. (Presumably, they chose the ones that looked the juiciest, too.)

The expectation was that the court’s resolution of the fate of the 56 documents would shed light on how the government should handle the remaining thousands. Since Judge Sweeney found none of the first 56 to be protected, the implication was that few, if any, of the rest would be protected.

Which is certainly how the Justice Department also appears to have understood Sweeney’s order. “Intervention by this court is required,” the department urged in its mandamus petition, “to avoid the en masse negation of crucial government privileges.”

Notwithstanding the filing of its petition yesterday, the government will still need to obtain a stay of Sweeney’s order—either from Sweeney herself or from the Federal Circuit—in order to keep from having to turn over the 56 documents to the plaintiffs’ lawyers in the meantime.

Fairholme and other investors are likely to oppose such a stay, arguing that the protective order Judge Sweeney already has in place—generally preventing lawyers in the case from showing any documents they receive through discovery to the public or even to their own clients—will prevent any harm to the government pending resolution of its appeal of the privilege ruling. (Almost all of the documents the investors’ attorneys have shown the D.C. Circuit so far, for instance, have remained under seal, unavailable to the public and, indeed, to the investors’ themselves.)

The cases before Sweeney and Lamberth all arise from the following facts. In September 2008, with residential mortgage defaults skyrocketing, FHFA’s director placed Fannie and Freddie into conservatorship.

Over the next four years the GSEs received, under the terms of special bailout legislation, $189.5 billion in taxpayer money. In exchange, they issued special “senior preferred stock” to the Treasury under which they had an obligation to pay 10% interest on the bailout money they’d received. In 2012, the GSEs began to make money again, together posting a healthy $8 billion in profits for the second quarter.

But in August 2012, a few days after those profits were posted, Treasury and FHFA suddenly changed the terms of the GSEs’ special preferred stock. They replaced the 10% interest obligation with a requirement that the GSEs instead pay Treasury their entire profit each quarter in perpetuity (except for a small capital reserve that would gradually dwindle to nothing by 2018). Due to this new regime—known as the Net Worth Sweep—it now appeared that the GSEs would never emerge from conservatorship, and would, rather, be eventually wound down and replaced with some other system of housing finance to be set up by Congress.

Government officials have claimed that they took this action because they feared the GSEs would start losing money again, with taxpayers still being on the hook. In the months immediately following the momentous switch, however, the GSEs actually booked record profits. As of last November, by which time thousands of Fannie and Freddie investors—led by Fairholme and hedge fund Perry Capital—had filed numerous suits in numerous courts, the GSEs had paid the government about $240 billion in exchange for the $189.5 billion bailout, or nearly $130 billion more than they would have paid under the original 10% coupon agreements.

Lawyers for the investor plaintiffs have speculated that the Treasury and FHFA officials responsible actually knew that the GSEs were healthy in 2012 (and possibly even in 2008) but confiscated their assets for opportunistic budgetary reasons, including, perhaps, the desire to postpone hitting the national debt ceiling at a time when Congress was threatening to shut down the government. They have sought disclosure of Treasury, FHFA, and White House documents in order to try to prove this theory.

Build a Bigger Nest Egg With a Spousal IRA

The following column from Phoebe Venable, CapWealth Advisors President & COO, appeared in The Tennessean on October 21, 2016.

spousal-ira3-editAccording to my favorite budgeting website,, the calculated value of work done by stay-at-home mothers and fathers as an annual salary is approximately $100,000. Many would say the actual value is priceless — and might very well point out that the job is 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Not only do these admirable ladies and gents not receive nearly the credit they deserve, they often forget to spend time — or money — on themselves.

Smart and practical

Perhaps it feels like a selfish extravagance that would be more wisely directed toward your children or your home life, but funding a retirement account for yourself is a smart and extremely practical way for stay-at-home parents to invest in their future well-being and increase their overall household retirement savings. While there are no 401(k) plans for stay-at-home parents, there is the spousal IRA.

Similar to regular IRA

A spousal IRA is basically the same animal as a normal IRA except that the employed spouse’s income is used to fund the IRA for the non-employed spouse. Spousal IRA contributions may be permitted to either a traditional or a Roth IRA, but the Internal Revenue Service does have a few eligibility requirements for the spousal IRA:

  • You must be married and file joint income tax returns.
  • The employed spouse’s income must be at least the amount contributed annually to the spousal IRA.
  • The non-employed spouse must be under age 70 1/2 in the year of the contribution for a traditional IRA. If you are using a Roth IRA, there are no age restrictions.

The maximum annual IRA contribution for 2016 is $5,500 for those under the age of 50. If you are age 50 or older (up to age 70 1/2), the IRS allows you to “catch up” with an additional $1,000 contribution, bringing your total to $6,500. These spousal IRA contributions are fully deductible for married couples with modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) of $184,000 or less this year. Married couples with a MAGI above this income limit may still make, but not fully deduct, a contribution to a traditional IRA.

It’s your money

Because IRA stands for “individual retirement account,” you own the money that your spouse contributes because the account is in your name. If you already have an IRA established in your name, maybe from a 401(k) rollover after leaving a previous job, consider it a spousal IRA and make contributions into that account. If not, you can always open an actual spousal IRA anywhere that manages IRAs.

Do keep in mind the difference between a Roth and traditional IRA before you open your spousal retirement account. Contributions to traditional IRAs are tax-deductible (subject to income limitations). The account grows tax-deferred until you make a withdrawal. Distributions from traditional IRAs are taxed as income. Conversely, Roth IRA contributions are never tax-deductible. Contributions may be withdrawn at any time without taxes or penalties; earnings may be withdrawn tax-free and penalty-free once you reach age 59 1/2 and the account has been open for at least five years.

A larger nest egg

Don’t be hoodwinked by the notion that if you don’t earn a salary, you can’t contribute to — or don’t deserve — a retirement account. The spousal IRA is a great way for families to build a larger nest egg when one spouse isn’t earning a salary. In fact, with a spousal IRA you can make a real impact on your and your spouse’s standard of living come the golden years. Discuss with your financial adviser what type of spousal IRA will work best for your family.

Phoebe Venable, chartered financial analyst, is president and COO of CapWealth Advisors. Her column on women, families and building wealth appears every other Saturday in The Tennessean. To learn more about her or her firm, visit

Franklin Tomorrow and Franklin Mayor Ken Moore Host Third Annual Mayor’s Cup Tournament

franklin-tomorrow-mayors-cup-golf-tournamentFranklin Tomorrow and Franklin, TN, Mayor Ken Moore hosted the third annual Mayor’s Cup Golf Tournament on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016, at the Vanderbilt Legends Club. All proceeds benefit the work of Franklin Tomorrow, a non-profit community organization that engages the community, fosters collaboration, and advocates for a shared vision for the future of Franklin. Tim Murphy, managing director of Wealth Management for CapWealth Advisors, is Franklin Tomorrow’s president.

Moore is an avid golfer and played with everyone in the tournament, which was sold out for this year!

The tournament began with a 1:30 p.m. shotgun start, preceded by lunch from Jim N’ Nick’s BBQ at the Vanderbilt Legends golf pavilion. The day wrapped up with a dinner featuring a whole hog presentation by Jim N’ Nick’s, with the public invited to attend for $30 per person.

CapWealth's Tim Murphy, far left, and Franklin Mayor Ken Moore, far right, present a trophy to one of the category winners at the recent Mayor's Cup Golf Tournament held at Vanderbilt's Legends Golf Course.

CapWealth’s Tim Murphy, far left, and Franklin Mayor Ken Moore, far right, present a trophy to one of the category winners at the recent Mayor’s Cup Golf Tournament held at Vanderbilt’s Legends Golf Course.

The tournament was being presented by Franklin Synergy Bank. Additional partners included Volkert, Inc.; SouthStar; and Barge, Waggoner, Sumner & Cannon.

Also sponsoring were Bristol Development; Grand Avenue; Bell Construction & Kiser + Vogrin Design, Harpeth TrueValue; B.L. Harbert; McArthur-Sanders Real Estate Co; DBS Corp.; Tennessee Valley Homes; Richards & Richards; Chartwell Hospitality; Southern Line; Signature Homes; Carbine & Associates; CDM Smith; Civil & Environmental Consultants; ATMOS Energy; Civil Constructors; Benesch & Co.; Greater Nashville Association of Realtors; DBS Corp.; Boyle Investment; and Southern Land.

CapWealth would like to congratulate all the tournament’s winners and thank Tim, Franklin Tomorrow and all of the sponsors for producing such a great event!

Freddie and Fannie Investors Get Win in Latest Judge Sweeney Ruling

The following Fortune article appeared online on October 4, 2016. Click here to see the article at

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Investors Win Round Against Government

By Roger Parloff

Fannie FreddieInvestors challenging the legality of the government’s effective nationalization of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in August 2012 appear to be making some headway with at least one of the two key trial judges presiding over the sprawling, $130 billion litigation stemming from that event.

In an 81-page ruling unsealed Monday evening, Court of Federal Claims judge Margaret Sweeney ordered the U.S. Treasury Department to turn over 11,000 documents that shed light on why it took that extraordinary action—rejecting every single invocation of privilege over them that had been asserted by the Treasury, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), and the White House.

“Judge Sweeney astutely recognized that the government’s attempt to hide thousands of documents was unjustifiable, for the work of our government must withstand public scrutiny,” wrote activist investor Bruce Berkowitz in an email Tuesday. Berkowitz is the founder of the Fairholme family of mutual funds, which is a leading plaintiff in the litigation.

“She looked at 56 documents in camera,” said Tim Pagliara in an interview, “and gave the government every benefit of the doubt as she did so, and then she ruled that the plaintiffs need to know this information in the pursuit of justice.” (The 56 documents were selected by the parties as a representative assortment of the 11,000 in dispute.) Pagliara heads Tennessee money manager CapWealth Advisors, and also leads Investors Unite, a group supporting the plaintiffs in these lawsuits.

FHFA and Treasury both declined to comment on Judge Sweeney’s ruling.

The ruling could possibly carry political fallout as well. Four of the documents—which the White House tried to withhold by invoking presidential privilege—were authored by, or sent to President Barack Obama’s then-National Economic Council director Gene Sperling. Now an economic advisor to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Sperling also has been mentioned in the media as a possible Treasury Secretary in a Clinton administration.

The order came in a group of consolidated cases, including Fairholme’s, which are all being brought by shareholders in the two government sponsored enterprises (GSEs). The suits allege that an agreement struck between Treasury and FHFA in August 2012, under which all the GSEs’ profits each quarter since then have been diverted to the Treasury, amounted to an unconstitutional “taking” of their property without just compensation in violation of the fifth amendment. The diversion has come to be known as “the net worth sweep.” (I wrote an article bout this litigation last November entitled, “How Uncle Sam Nationalized Two Fortune 50 Companies.”)

Although cases challenging the net worth sweep have been filed in at least six different federal courts around the country, the group of suits before Judge Sweeney, in the Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C., and a second group, consolidated before Judge Royce Lamberth, in federal district court in Washington, D.C., have garnered most attention and activity so far.

The cases before Judge Lamberth were, for the most part, filed under different legal theories than those before Sweeney. Rather than making the constitutional takings claim—and seeking money damages—they argue instead that imposition of the net worth sweeps in August 2012 violated various federal laws and must be unwound by court order.

The Lamberth cases have gone poorly for the investors so far. The judge dismissed them last September, finding that Treasury and FHFA had acted within their powers and, in any case, that their choices were, in this case, largely unreviewable in court. An appeal of Lamberth’s ruling, known as Perry Capital v. Lew, was heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last April, but no ruling has yet issued.

All the lawsuits stem from these events. In September 2008, as the bottom was falling out of the residential mortgage market and the nation’s economic system was descending into crisis, the government placed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into conservatorship, with FHFA acting as the conservator.

The stated goal at the time was to ensure stability in the national housing market. In most, but not all, of the cases now being litigated the propriety of placing the GSEs into conservatorship in September 2008 is not questioned. (The plaintiffs do argue, however, that conservatorship differs importantly from receivership, and that a conservator’s duty is to nurse a company back to health, not to dismantle it for the benefit of creditors.)

Over the next four years the GSEs received, under the terms of special bailout legislation, $189.5 billion in taxpayer money. In exchange, they issued special preferred stock to the Treasury under which they had an obligation to pay 10% interest on the bailout money they’d received. In early 2012, the GSEs began to make money again, together posting a healthy $8 billion in profits for the second quarter.

But in August 2012, Treasury and FHFA suddenly changed the terms of the GSEs’ special preferred stock. They replaced the 10% interest obligation with a requirement, instead, that the GSEs pay Treasury their entire profit each quarter in perpetuity. The GSEs would, therefore, never emerge from conservatorship, and would, rather, be wound down and replaced with some other system of housing finance to be set up by Congress.

Government officials have claimed that they feared the GSEs would start losing money again, and that taxpayers would end up on the hook again. In the months immediately following the momentous switch, however, the GSEs actually booked enormous profits, and they have now paid the government about $240 billion in exchange for the $189.5 billion bailout—and nearly $130 billion more than they would have paid so far under the original 10% coupon agreements.

The investors plaintiffs have speculated that the government officials responsible actually knew the GSEs were healthy, but confiscated the GSE assets for opportunistic budgetary reasons, including, perhaps, the desire to postpone hitting the national debt ceiling at a time Congress was threatening to shut down the government. The investors hope that the internal documents Judge Sweeney ordered turned over two weeks ago will help them make this case. (The documents themselves remain under seal for now.)

In fairness, it’s not certain that the government’s motivation for the August 2012 action is going to prove to be a crucial factor in determining the legality of the net worth sweeps, under either the statutory or constitutional theories of the case.

“Motives are irrelevant for takings purposes,” Judge Lamberth wrote in his order dismissing the cases before him last September, for instance. Similarly, he found that government’s motive was irrelevant in assessing whether it had acted within its powers under the bailout legislation.