Trump mortgage chief inflated resume
Donald Trump said his new mortgage-brokerage unit would inject honesty into an industry with a bad reputation. But his lieutenant's resume raises credibility issues.
NEW YORK (Money) -- Donald Trump may have hired one more apprentice than he thinks. When the real estate mogul launched Trump Mortgage in April, he said it would inject integrity into an industry that has the reputation for giving customers a raw deal.
To head the mortgage broker, Trump hired E.J. Ridings, who the company's Web site touts as a seasoned pro. "Trump Mortgage is going to take better care of people than anyone in the mortgage industry ever has," Trump said at the time.
Ridings, of course, agrees. "The housing boom has attracted a variety of people into this business, not all of them honest," he told Money Magazine in September. "I really believe that the public needs and wants a safe place to get a mortgage."
But if Trump is trying to build a mortgage brand on honesty, he seems to have said 'You're hired' to the wrong executive.
In interviews with Money and on his company's Web site, Ridings has made a number of false or misleading claims about his professional experience. Last week, following inquiries by Money into Ridings' background, Trump Mortgage altered its Web site, removing some of the claims it contained about Ridings' past employment.
First, Ridings' initial bio stated that before joining the company he was "a top executive at one of Wall Street's most prestigious investment banks."
Second, the bio had said that Ridings was an "established leader" at one of New York's leading mortgage boutiques.
Third, the bio said he had 15 years of experience in the financial industry.
All three claims appear to be false, according to regulatory documents obtained by Money and interviews with former colleagues of Ridings.
Ridings, 42, has never been a top professional on Wall Street. Ridings, in an interview with Money in September, said the "top-executive" reference in his bio refers to an 18-month period in which he was a retail stock broker at Morgan Stanley.
But even that is a significant stretching of the truth. According to documents from the New York State Attorney General's office, Ridings worked at Morgan Stanley's brokerage subsidiary Dean Witter Reynolds in the fall of 1998 for less than three months. During that time, he was a registered broker for six days before leaving the firm.
A spokeswoman at Morgan Stanley confirmed that Ridings worked for the firm's brokerage division briefly in the fall of 1998, but would not comment on how or why Ridings left the firm. The spokeswoman declined to comment on what Ridings' role was at Morgan Stanley or whether he could have risen to a "top executive" in his three-month tenure.
In response to questions from Money, Ridings said that the Attorney General's office is mistaken but did not give any evidence to refute the Attorney General's records.
Ridings is also inflating his position in the mortgage industry. According to former colleagues, Ridings was a relatively minor player at the mortgage boutique GuardHill Financial, where he worked from June 2003 to April 2005.
Jan Scheck, who Ridings listed as his supervisor on documents he filed with the New York State Banking Department, said Ridings held an entry-level position at the firm, and was one of 40 loan originators. Scheck ended up being hired by Ridings at Trump Mortgage as national sales manager, but left the firm this year after his one-year contract was up.
Steven Schnall, who for 14 years has been head of New York-based New York Mortgage Company, one of the largest mortgage companies in the area, says he had never heard of Ridings before Trump launched his company.
Ridings maintains he was a leader at GuardHill. Through a spokesperson, Ridings said his former colleagues "may be seeking to undermine E.J.'s present day success."
What about those 15 years of experience in the financial industry? According to documents obtained by Money from the New York State Banking Department, Ridings' first job in the financial services industry was his brief time as a broker at Morgan Stanley in late 1998. The documents also say he was a day trader for two years, and worked at subprime lending firm Equity Funding for one year before joining GuardHill.
Where Ridings does have a fair amount of experience is in the nutritional supplement business. In the mid-1990s, he founded a company that sold a variety of vitamins and health drinks. Before that, Ridings owned a cleaning service. Ridings, through a spokesperson, says his 15 years of experience includes the "financial industry experience within his own companies that he founded earlier in his career."
Trump Mortgage is off to a bumpy start. At least six residential mortgage professionals have left the firm in the past six months, including Scheck and Craig Lane, who was hired to run the company's Florida operations.
And Trump Mortgage has fallen short of Ridings' earlier forecasts. At the time of the company's launch, Ridings predicted the company would complete $3 billion in loans in 2006, much of it in residential lending. Now Ridings says, "Trump Mortgage anticipated doing close to $1 billion in residential mortgages, but that figure may not be reached by the end of this year."
Donald Trump declined to comment for this story.
Trump Mortgage could not be reached to comment on why Ridings' bio on the Web site was changed following inquiries by Money.
Ridings says his company is off to a great start. "What we have got going here is phenomenal," Ridings said recently. "Trump Mortgage is going to be huge."