Jobe Danganan has always had a passion for ensuring that consumers are protected. His interest in helping the public, which he says runs through his veins, has led him from low-income neighborhoods in Los Angeles to some of the most prestigious institutions in the world. And as general counsel, corporate secretary, and chief compliance officer at HomeLight, Danganan is using his expertise to help transform the home-buying experience for consumers across the country.
“My family immigrated to the United States when I was twelve, and I grew up in Los Angeles,” Danganan says. He left Los Angeles in 1995 to attend Harvard University, later deciding to pursue joint JD and MPA degrees at the University of California, Berkeley law school and Princeton University, respectively. After receiving his JD and clerking for the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, he worked for several years as an associate at top law firms in Boston and New York.
“And then the financial crisis happened,” Danganan says. “With its broad impact across so much of the population, I really wanted to take part in the effort to give back to the public and help protect consumers.” So in 2010, when there was an opening for a senior investigative counsel on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, Danganan seized the opportunity to examine the cause of the 2008 financial collapse.
After the commission published its final report, Danganan moved to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), where he spent the next three years as an enforcement attorney-advisor working to correct the financial abuses he had seen inflicted on those around him.
“I had friends and family members who had lost their homes to foreclosures and short sales,” Danganan says. “The CFPB was like a breath of fresh air—my job was to help find ways to protect consumers in the financial marketplace, whether that was mortgages and credit cards or student loans and debt collection. It was such a wonderful opportunity, and I loved every minute of it.”
After leaving the CFPB in 2014, Danganan continued in his consumer-centered mission as general counsel, chief compliance officer, and corporate secretary at fintech mortgage startup Sindeo. “Many people, including millennials, distrusted big banks by then and partly blamed them for the financial crisis,” Danganan recalls. “Sindeo focused on helping consumers understand what they are getting into with a mortgage and used technology to make the mortgage process easier.”
HomeLight, a San Francisco-based real estate technology company that has been making headlines in the home-buying space since its founding in 2012, has a similar vision, Danganan says. “We’re really trying to help consumers make sense of the real estate process. If you’re a first-time home buyer, where do you begin? You could search around the internet for houses, but do you know how much you can afford? How do you find a good real estate agent? What are all the different fees for? HomeLight helps answer all of those questions.”
Given his previous experience in government, Danganan is ideally situated to help HomeLight navigate the strict regulations of the financial services industry. “As a compliance person, regulations are always at the back of my mind, especially in terms of issue spotting and risk assessments,” he says. “My government experience is a part of me—a big part—and it’s become even more relevant now that HomeLight has acquired a mortgage company.”
Acquiring another company requires an in-depth vetting process, Danganan explains. When HomeLight decided to acquire a mortgage company instead of building its own, he did full diligence on the potential target’s regulatory and compliance regime, technology systems, governance, and more.
“Everyone expects the best from everybody else—but when you’re here, you’re part of our family.”
Large-scale decisions like major acquisitions can be stressful, he notes, but as an attorney, “people look to you to be rational. Calm. A compass for the company. If legal is panicking, everyone at the company will know that things are hitting the fan, and they’ll panic, too,” he says with a laugh.
It can be extremely challenging, though, to keep that level of calm—especially at start-ups, where risk is inherently part of the culture. “You have to take yourself outside of the present situation, find your center, and rationally assess the pros and cons of each option,” Danganan advises.
Fortunately, he says, HomeLight’s culture is one of “complete transparency, from the CEO down.” That kind of culture not only makes it easier to accurately assess risks, but also serves as a competitive advantage for the company as a whole.
“If you look at our Glassdoor rating, it seems almost unreal. But it’s true,” Danganan says. “We have a culture of excellence, a culture of transparency and collaboration. Everyone expects the best from everybody else—but when you’re here, you’re part of our family.”
Matterhorn Legal is a boutique corporate law firm founded by former Big Law attorneys seeking to provide top-tier corporate counsel at affordable prices. We congratulate Jobe Danganan on this honor and we are proud of our role assisting Jobe and HomeLight as M&A counsel in its first acquisition transaction.