Joseph Walsh Leaves Fortress for Amherst

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Amherst Holdings, LLC ramped up its brisk expansion in the turbulent mortgage securities market on Monday as it hired two executives, including Fannie Mae’s (FNM.P) top portfolio manager.

The Austin, Texas-based mortgage industry adviser, known for its broker-dealer Amherst Securities Group, hired as chief risk officer Ramon de Castro. He previously ran the $786 billion portfolio at Fannie Mae, the No. 1 U.S. housing finance company that succumbed to government control in September.

Amherst also hired Joseph Walsh, a former managing director with private equity manager Fortress Investment Group (FIG.N), as president. He previously headed mortgage trading and bond underwriting at RBS Greenwich Capital.

Since opening a New York office in July, Amherst has hired about 20 traders, salesmen and executives who worked at firms forced by the credit crisis to cut mortgage operations or close, including Bear Stearns Cos and Lehman Brothers. Some of those hires came after Amherst raised capital from Stone Point Capital and other investors, it said in a statement, and total employment is now around 100.

De Castro’s exit from Fannie Mae may add to concerns about a talent drain at government-chartered companies as the Obama administration leans on them to stabilize housing, analysts said. Returns to profitability may be hindered as the companies are driven toward the goal of foreclosure prevention, which could increase their costs, they said.

Freddie Mac (FRE.P) said earlier on Monday that Chief Executive Officer David Moffett announced he would quit after less six months on the job.

Amherst is expanding into “new product areas” in addition to growing its residential mortgage-backed securities business, Sean Dobson, Amherst’s chief executive officer, said in the statement.

By Al Yoon
(Editing by Dan Grebler)