California MBA CEO Honored for Service, Advocacy Work

Susan Milazzo’s trophy shelf just got a little fuller. The CEO of the California Mortgage Bankers Association was recognized with the annual Burton C. Wood Legislative Service Award from the Mortgage Bankers Association at its 2019 Annual Convention & Expo in Austin, TX.

The award is given annually to an MBA member in recognition of sustained, superior service to the association and the real estate finance industry as a whole.

Since her tenure began in 2004 as California MBA’s CEO, Milazzo has been a strong advocate for the national MBA and its political action programs. Milazzo has helped grow MBA’s annual National Advocacy Conference, and consistently serves as a state leader for her delegation during the conference’s ”advocacy day” on Capitol Hill. Milazzo has also been a steadfast leader when advocating for California issues, including heading efforts on data privacy laws and defeating Prop 10, a recent rent control ballot initiative.

Receiving the award was a “huge honor…and a surprise” for Milazzo, who acknowledged a natural passion for advocacy

Milazzo, who was “raised in politics,” got her first job at 17 as a clerk for a political consultant. 

“I’ve always had a job that is somewhat related to the legislative and political arena in California,” Milazzo said. “The cornerstone of our association is advocacy. Of course, advocacy, education and connection. But the first one being advocacy because that’s the true mission, and I think value that our association, as all state associations and the national MBA do, it’s for the mortgage industry to represent us.”

An Eye Towards New Privacy Regs

The biggest issue currently on Milazzo’s radar is the proposed regulations to implement the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). The robust legislation, enacted in January of 2018 and going into effect January 1, 2020, protects consumer personal information, allows for them to contact businesses, demand what information they have, delete some information in certain circumstances, and ask how that information is being used.

“It is definitely going to be a significant piece of regulation for the industry to absorb,” Milazzo said. She has convened a task force  with lenders, servicers and attorneys to review all of the proposed regulations, and is putting together a comment letter to submit to the California attorney general, on how the proposed regulations affect access to credit for qualified borrowers.

If there are instances where the California MBA suggests changes to proposed regulations to protect that access to credit, they will convey that to lawmakers, Milazzo said.

She is aware that California often leads the way in policy-making, and that other states follow its example. She knows eyes will be on California, and that the issue is “of national interest.”

“This will be the biggest issue that anybody lending in California will have to put their arms around to work on policies and procedures,” she said. “Our first goal is to make sure that we are at the table when we’re talking about negotiations on the finalized regulations, that our comments are there and being considered. Beyond that, we’re going to be convening a quarterly webinar for the industry to talk about implementation for the CCPA. How is this working? Best practices, something that is working, something you’re maybe struggling with.”

She understands that California MBA members need a place to come together and understand what’s working. Milazzo acknowledged that implementing all of these regulations will be an undertaking for the industry, but that “…these are the rules that we’re going to have to live under and operate under. Let’s all work together to make sure that we’re doing the very best that we can to be compliant with the new law.”

Milazzo noted that CCPA, which was pushed through the legislative process quickly and under special circumstances, was initially opposed by the California MBA, because lenders have to share personal information in order to originate a loan and to sell it on the secondary market. She believes that this could negatively affect access to affordable credit, and would drive up the cost of originating. “But this is capitalism. If something costs more to make, it’s going to cost the consumer more. That’s the way life works.”

Milazzo would prefer a standard for national data security, to level the playing field. But she is committed to helping her members understand the new regulations and be in compliance.

Meanwhile, the focus for Milazzo is surrounding clarity. “What specifically does this mean? What can we do? What can’t we do? There are a lot of unanswered questions as we look at the regulations,” she said. “These attorneys that I have are getting into the very nitty gritty of this. Our industry accepts the fact that we will be dealing with probably more, well more government regulation then than we’ve ever had and we don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. We just need to make sure that it is clear as to where, how we as lenders stay compliant with the legislation and laws that have been passed in our state. That’s it.”