Federal Government Takes Over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

Well, as of this afternoon, it’s official: the 2 mortgage giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, will be placed in conservatorship under the supervision of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA).  Under this plan, the federal government will temporarily run Fannie and Freddie until the 2 companies become more stable.

Along with this temporary takeover, the CEOs of Freddie and Fannie, Richard Syron and Daniel Mudd will be ousted, but kept on during the transition  process.  Herb Allison, the former president TIAA-CREF and former vice-chairman of Merrill Lynch, will take over Fannie Mae, while David Moffett, the former vice-chairman and chief financial officer of U.S. Bancorp and senior adviser at the Carlyle Group, will take over Freddie Mac.

The move was announced at a press conference today where Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and FHFA director James Lockhart announced the plan:

  • Change in CEOs, as stated above.
  • Dividends on common and preferred shares will be eliminated in order to save the companies about $2 billion dollars per year.
  • All of the firms’ lobbying and political activities will immediately cease.
  • All charitable activities will be immediately reviewed.
  • The 2 companies will be allowed to “modestly increase” their existing investment portfolios until 2009.
  • Begin to shrink their investment portfolios by 10% a year, starting in 2010.
  • The Treasury Department will provide as much money as the companies need in order to keep their capital reserves from falling below the levels that would force them into receivership.
  • The Treasury Department will also buy Fannie and Freddie mortgage securities on the open market.
  • The Treasury Department will also create a “Secured Lending Credit Facility,” which will be a source for Freddie and Fannie to borrow money if they can’t borrow enough money on the open market.

Some quotes from Secretary Paulson (I’ll have full press releases for you to read at the very bottom):

  • “Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are so large and so interwoven in our financial system that a failure of either of them would cause great turmoil in our financial markets here at home and around the globe.  This turmoil would directly and negatively impact household wealth: from family budgets, to home values, to savings for college and retirement.  A failure would affect the ability of Americans to get home loans, auto loans and other consumer credit and business finance.  And a failure would be harmful to economic growth and job creation.”
  • “We examined all options available, and determined that this comprehensive and complementary set of actions best meets our three objectives of market stability, mortgage availability and taxpayer protection.”
  • “Government support needs to be either explicit or non-existent, and structured to resolve the conflict between public and private purposes,” Mr. Paulson said. “We will make a grave error if we don’t use this time out to permanently address the structural issues presented by the GSE’s [Government sponsored enterprises.  Fannie and Freddie were created by Congress, but were made private back in1968 and 1970 {Freddie was directly made a private corporation from the beginning}, respectively].”

Personally, I think that Freddie and Fannie have done business assuming that the government would “have to bail them out,” and thus didn’t take necessary precautions to avoid this.  The assumption that the government would have to step in came from the fact that together, Fannie and Freddie guarantee around  70% of all new home mortgages.

I don’t think that the government should have stepped in here.  The more the government gets involved, the deeper they’ll continue to get involved, and the more it’s going to cost taxpayers.  We’ve seen government involvement with Bear Sterns cost taxpayers millions of dollars.  We had the Economic Stimulus package use taxpayer money to basically bail out citizens who made poor decisions.  It was people like Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) and Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) that stood up to that that are standing up to the takeover of Freddie and Fannie (I know that Paul is – I haven’t gotten a quote from Hagel yet, but based on past voting records, I’m going to guess that he’s against it).  This is going to cost the taxpayers BILLIONS of dollars.

And here are those press releases I promised you available on the Treasury Department’s website and the FHFA press release is available here):

September 7, 2008
hp-1129

Statement by Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Jr. on Treasury and Federal Housing Finance Agency Action to Protect Financial Markets and Taxpayers

Washington, DC–

Good morning. I’m joined here by Jim Lockhart, Director of the new independent regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, FHFA.

In July, Congress granted the Treasury, the Federal Reserve and FHFA new authorities with respect to the GSEs, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Since that time, we have closely monitored financial market and business conditions and have analyzed in great detail the current financial condition of the GSEs – including the ability of the GSEs to weather a variety of market conditions going forward. As a result of this work, we have determined that it is necessary to take action.

Since this difficult period for the GSEs began, I have clearly stated three critical objectives: providing stability to financial markets, supporting the availability of mortgage finance, and protecting taxpayers – both by minimizing the near term costs to the taxpayer and by setting policymakers on a course to resolve the systemic risk created by the inherent conflict in the GSE structure.

Based on what we have learned about these institutions over the last four weeks – including what we learned about their capital requirements – and given the condition of financial markets today, I concluded that it would not have been in the best interest of the taxpayers for Treasury to simply make an equity investment in these enterprises in their current form.

The four steps we are announcing today are the result of detailed and thorough collaboration between FHFA, the U.S. Treasury, and the Federal Reserve.

We examined all options available, and determined that this comprehensive and complementary set of actions best meets our three objectives of market stability, mortgage availability and taxpayer protection.

Throughout this process we have been in close communication with the GSEs themselves. I have also consulted with Members of Congress from both parties and I appreciate their support as FHFA, the Federal Reserve and the Treasury have moved to address this difficult issue.

 

Before I turn to Jim to discuss the action he is taking today, let me make clear that these two institutions are unique. They operate solely in the mortgage market and are therefore more exposed than other financial institutions to the housing correction. Their statutory capital requirements are thin and poorly defined as compared to other institutions. Nothing about our actions today in any way reflects a changed view of the housing correction or of the strength of other U.S. financial institutions.

***

I support the Director’s decision as necessary and appropriate and had advised him that conservatorship was the only form in which I would commit taxpayer money to the GSEs.

I appreciate the productive cooperation we have received from the boards and the management of both GSEs. I attribute the need for today’s action primarily to the inherent conflict and flawed business model embedded in the GSE structure, and to the ongoing housing correction. GSE managements and their Boards are responsible for neither. New CEOs supported by new non-executive Chairmen have taken over management of the enterprises, and we hope and expect that the vast majority of key professionals will remain in their jobs. I am particularly pleased that the departing CEOs, Dan Mudd and Dick Syron, have agreed to stay on for a period to help with the transition.

I have long said that the housing correction poses the biggest risk to our economy. It is a drag on our economic growth, and at the heart of the turmoil and stress for our financial markets and financial institutions. Our economy and our markets will not recover until the bulk of this housing correction is behind us. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are critical to turning the corner on housing. Therefore, the primary mission of these enterprises now will be to proactively work to increase the availability of mortgage finance, including by examining the guaranty fee structure with an eye toward mortgage affordability.

To promote stability in the secondary mortgage market and lower the cost of funding, the GSEs will modestly increase their MBS portfolios through the end of 2009. Then, to address systemic risk, in 2010 their portfolios will begin to be gradually reduced at the rate of 10 percent per year, largely through natural run off, eventually stabilizing at a lower, less risky size.

Treasury has taken three additional steps to complement FHFA’s decision to place both enterprises in conservatorship. First, Treasury and FHFA have established Preferred Stock Purchase Agreements, contractual agreements between the Treasury and the conserved entities. Under these agreements, Treasury will ensure that each company maintains a positive net worth. These agreements support market stability by providing additional security and clarity to GSE debt holders – senior and subordinated – and support mortgage availability by providing additional confidence to investors in GSE mortgage backed securities. This commitment will eliminate any mandatory triggering of receivership and will ensure that the conserved entities have the ability to fulfill their financial obligations. It is more efficient than a one-time equity injection, because it will be used only as needed and on terms that Treasury has set. With this agreement, Treasury receives senior preferred equity shares and warrants that protect taxpayers. Additionally, under the terms of the agreement, common and preferred shareholders bear losses ahead of the new government senior preferred shares.

These Preferred Stock Purchase Agreements were made necessary by the ambiguities in the GSE Congressional charters, which have been perceived to indicate government support for agency debt and guaranteed MBS. Our nation has tolerated these ambiguities for too long, and as a result GSE debt and MBS are held by central banks and investors throughout the United States and around the world who believe them to be virtually risk-free. Because the U.S. Government created these ambiguities, we have a responsibility to both avert and ultimately address the systemic risk now posed by the scale and breadth of the holdings of GSE debt and MBS.

Market discipline is best served when shareholders bear both the risk and the reward of their investment. While conservatorship does not eliminate the common stock, it does place common shareholders last in terms of claims on the assets of the enterprise.

Similarly, conservatorship does not eliminate the outstanding preferred stock, but does place preferred shareholders second, after the common shareholders, in absorbing losses. The federal banking agencies are assessing the exposures of banks and thrifts to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The agencies believe that, while many institutions hold common or preferred shares of these two GSEs, only a limited number of smaller institutions have holdings that are significant compared to their capital.

The agencies encourage depository institutions to contact their primary federal regulator if they believe that losses on their holdings of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac common or preferred shares, whether realized or unrealized, are likely to reduce their regulatory capital below “well capitalized.” The banking agencies are prepared to work with the affected institutions to develop capital restoration plans consistent with the capital regulations.

Preferred stock investors should recognize that the GSEs are unlike any other financial institutions and consequently GSE preferred stocks are not a good proxy for financial institution preferred stock more broadly. By stabilizing the GSEs so they can better perform their mission, today’s action should accelerate stabilization in the housing market, ultimately benefiting financial institutions. The broader market for preferred stock issuance should continue to remain available for well-capitalized institutions.

The second step Treasury is taking today is the establishment of a new secured lending credit facility which will be available to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Banks. Given the combination of actions we are taking, including the Preferred Share Purchase Agreements, we expect the GSEs to be in a stronger position to fund their regular business activities in the capital markets. This facility is intended to serve as an ultimate liquidity backstop, in essence, implementing the temporary liquidity backstop authority granted by Congress in July, and will be available until those authorities expire in December 2009.

Finally, to further support the availability of mortgage financing for millions of Americans, Treasury is initiating a temporary program to purchase GSE MBS. During this ongoing housing correction, the GSE portfolios have been constrained, both by their own capital situation and by regulatory efforts to address systemic risk. As the GSEs have grappled with their difficulties, we’ve seen mortgage rate spreads to Treasuries widen, making mortgages less affordable for homebuyers. While the GSEs are expected to moderately increase the size of their portfolios over the next 15 months through prudent mortgage purchases, complementary government efforts can aid mortgage affordability. Treasury will begin this new program later this month, investing in new GSE MBS. Additional purchases will be made as deemed appropriate. Given that Treasury can hold these securities to maturity, the spreads between Treasury issuances and GSE MBS indicate that there is no reason to expect taxpayer losses from this program, and, in fact, it could produce gains. This program will also expire with the Treasury’s temporary authorities in December 2009.

Together, this four part program is the best means of protecting our markets and the taxpayers from the systemic risk posed by the current financial condition of the GSEs. Because the GSEs are in conservatorship, they will no longer be managed with a strategy to maximize common shareholder returns, a strategy which historically encouraged risk-taking. The Preferred Stock Purchase Agreements minimize current cash outlays, and give taxpayers a large stake in the future value of these entities. In the end, the ultimate cost to the taxpayer will depend on the business results of the GSEs going forward. To that end, the steps we have taken to support the GSE debt and to support the mortgage market will together improve the housing market, the US economy and the GSEs’ business outlook.

Through the four actions we have taken today, FHFA and Treasury have acted on the responsibilities we have to protect the stability of the financial markets, including the mortgage market, and to protect the taxpayer to the maximum extent possible.

And let me make clear what today’s actions mean for Americans and their families. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are so large and so interwoven in our financial system that a failure of either of them would cause great turmoil in our financial markets here at home and around the globe. This turmoil would directly and negatively impact household wealth: from family budgets, to home values, to savings for college and retirement. A failure would affect the ability of Americans to get home loans, auto loans and other consumer credit and business finance. And a failure would be harmful to economic growth and job creation. That is why we have taken these actions today.

While we expect these four steps to provide greater stability and certainty to market participants and provide long-term clarity to investors in GSE debt and MBS securities, our collective work is not complete. At the end of next year, the Treasury temporary authorities will expire, the GSE portfolios will begin to gradually run off, and the GSEs will begin to pay the government a fee to compensate taxpayers for the on-going support provided by the Preferred Stock Purchase Agreements. Together, these factors should give momentum and urgency to the reform cause. Policymakers must view this next period as a “time out” where we have stabilized the GSEs while we decide their future role and structure.

Because the GSEs are Congressionally-chartered, only Congress can address the inherent conflict of attempting to serve both shareholders and a public mission. The new Congress and the next Administration must decide what role government in general, and these entities in particular, should play in the housing market. There is a consensus today that these enterprises pose a systemic risk and they cannot continue in their current form. Government support needs to be either explicit or non-existent, and structured to resolve the conflict between public and private purposes. And policymakers must address the issue of systemic risk. I recognize that there are strong differences of opinion over the role of government in supporting housing, but under any course policymakers choose, there are ways to structure these entities in order to address market stability in the transition and limit systemic risk and conflict of purposes for the long-term. We will make a grave error if we don’t use this time out to permanently address the structural issues presented by the GSEs.

In the weeks to come, I will describe my views on long term reform. I look forward to engaging in that timely and necessary debate.

-30-

And here’s the FHFA statement:

FEDERAL HOUSING FINANCE AGENCY

STATEMENT

Contact:      Corinne Russell     (202) 414-6921
Stefanie Mullin     (202) 414-6376

For Immediate Release
September 7, 2008

****EMBARGOED UNTIL 11 a.m. ****

STATEMENT OF FHFA DIRECTOR JAMES B. LOCKHART

Good Morning

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac share the critical mission of providing stability and liquidity to the housing market. Between them, the Enterprises have $5.4 trillion of guaranteed mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and debt outstanding, which is equal to the publicly held debt of the United States. Their market share of all new mortgages reached over 80 percent earlier this year, but it is now falling. During the turmoil last year, they played a very important role in providing liquidity to the conforming mortgage market. That has required a very careful and delicate balance of mission and safety and soundness. A key component of this balance has been their ability to raise and maintain capital. Given recent market conditions, the
balance has been lost. Unfortunately, as house prices, earnings and capital have continued to deteriorate, their ability to fulfill their mission has deteriorated. In particular, the capacity of their capital to absorb further losses while supporting new business activity is in doubt.

Today’s action addresses safety and soundness concerns. FHFA’s rating system is called GSE Enterprise Risk or G-Seer. It stands for Governance, Solvency, Earnings and Enterprise Risk which includes credit, market and operational risk. There are pervasive weaknesses across the board, which have been getting worse in this market.

Over the last three years OFHEO, and now FHFA, have worked hard to encourage the Enterprises to rectify their accounting, systems, controls and risk management issues. They have made good progress in many areas, but market conditions have overwhelmed that progress.

The result has been that they have been unable to provide needed stability to the market. They also find themselves unable to meet their affordable housing mission. Rather than letting these conditions fester and worsen and put our markets in jeopardy, FHFA, after painstaking review, has decided to take action now.

Key events over the past six months have demonstrated the increasing challenge faced by the companies in striving to balance mission and safety and soundness, and the ultimate disruption of that balance that led to today’s announcements. In the first few months of this year, the secondary market showed significant deterioration, with buyers demanding much higher prices for mortgage backed securities.

In February, in recognition of the remediation progress in financial reporting, we removed the portfolio caps on each company, but they did not have the capital to use that flexibility.

In March, we announced with the Enterprises an initiative to increase mortgage market liquidity and market confidence. We reduced the OFHEO-directed capital requirements in return for their commitments to raise significant capital and to maintain overall capital levels well in excess of requirements.

In April, we released our Annual Report to Congress, identifying each company as a significant supervisory concern and noting, in particular, the deteriorating mortgage credit environment and the risks it posed to the companies.

In May OFHEO lifted its 2006 Consent Order with Fannie Mae after the company completed the terms of that order. Subsequently, Fannie Mae successfully raised $7.4 billion of new capital, but Freddie Mac never completed the capital raise promised in March.

Since then credit conditions in the mortgage market continued to deteriorate, with home prices continuing to decline and mortgage delinquency rates reaching alarming levels. FHFA intensified its reviews of each company’s capital planning and capital position, their earnings forecasts and the effect of falling house prices and increasing delinquencies on the credit quality of their mortgage book.

In getting to today, the supervision team has spent countless hours reviewing with each company various forecasts, stress tests, and projections, and has evaluated the performance of their internal models in these analyses. We have had many meetings with each company’s management teams, and have had frank exchanges regarding loss projections, asset valuations, and capital adequacy. More recently, we have gone the extra step of inviting the Federal Reserve and the OCC to have some of their senior mortgage credit experts join our team in these assessments.

The conclusions we reach today, while our own, have had the added benefit of their insight and perspective.

After this exhaustive review, I have determined that the companies cannot continue to operate safely and soundly and fulfill their critical public mission, without significant action to address our concerns, which are:
• the safety and soundness issues I mentioned, including current capitalization;
• current market conditions;
• the financial performance and condition of each company;
• the inability of the companies to fund themselves according to normal practices and prices; and
• the critical importance each company has in supporting the residential mortgage market in this country,

Therefore, in order to restore the balance between safety and soundness and mission, FHFA has placed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into conservatorship. That is a statutory process designed to stabilize a troubled institution with the

objective of returning the entities to normal business operations. FHFA will act as the conservator to operate the Enterprises until they are stabilized.

The Boards of both companies consented yesterday to the conservatorship. I appreciate the cooperation we have received from the boards and the management of both Enterprises. These individuals did not create the inherent conflict and flawed business model embedded in the Enterprises’ structure.

The goal of these actions is to help restore confidence in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, enhance their capacity to fulfill their mission, and mitigate the systemic risk that has contributed directly to the instability in the current market. The lack of confidence has resulted in continuing spread widening of their MBS, which means that virtually none of the large drop in interest rates over the past year has been passed on to the mortgage markets. On top of that, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, in order to try to build capital, have continued to raise prices and tighten credit standards.

FHFA has not undertaken this action lightly. We have consulted with the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Ben Bernanke, who was appointed a consultant to FHFA under the new legislation. We

have also consulted with the Secretary of the Treasury, not only as an FHFA Oversight Board member, but also in his duties under the law to provide financing to the GSEs. They both concurred with me that conservatorship needed to be undertaken now.

There are several key components of this conservatorship:

First, Monday morning the businesses will open as normal, only with stronger backing for the holders of MBS, senior debt and subordinated debt.

Second, the Enterprises will be allowed to grow their guarantee MBS books without limits and continue to purchase replacement securities for their portfolios, about $20 billion per month without capital constraints.

Third, as the conservator, FHFA will assume the power of the Board and management.

Fourth, the present CEOs will be leaving, but we have asked them to stay on to help with the transition.

Fifth, I am announcing today I have selected Herb Allison to be the new CEO of Fannie Mae and David Moffett the CEO of Freddie Mac. Herb has been the Vice Chairman of Merrill Lynch and for the last eight years chairman of TIAA-CREF. David was the Vice Chairman and CFO of US Bancorp. I appreciate the willingness of these two men to take on these tough jobs during these challenging times. Their compensation will be significantly lower than the outgoing CEOs. They will be joined by equally strong non-executive chairmen.

Sixth, at this time any other management action will be very limited. In fact, the new CEOs have agreed with me that it is very important to work with the current management teams and employees to encourage them to stay and to continue to make important improvements to the Enterprises.

Seventh, in order to conserve over $2 billion in capital every year, the common stock and preferred stock dividends will be eliminated, but the common and all preferred stocks will continue to remain outstanding. Subordinated debt interest and principal payments will continue to be made.

Eighth, all political activities — including all lobbying — will be halted immediately. We will review the charitable activities.

Lastly and very importantly, there will be the financing and investing relationship with the U.S. Treasury, which Secretary Paulson will be discussing. We believe that these facilities will provide the critically needed support to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and importantly the liquidity of the mortgage market.

One of the three facilities he will be mentioning is a secured liquidity facility which will be not only for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but also for the 12 Federal Home Loan Banks that FHFA also regulates. The Federal Home Loan Banks have performed remarkably well over the last year as they have a different business model than Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and a different capital structure that grows as their lending activity grows. They are joint and severally liable for the Bank System’s debt obligations and all but one of the 12 are profitable. Therefore, it is very unlikely that they will use the facility.

During the conservatorship period, FHFA will continue to work expeditiously on the many regulations needed to implement the new law. Some of the key regulations will be minimum capital standards, prudential safety and soundness standards and portfolio limits. It is critical to complete these regulations so that any new investor will understand the investment proposition.

This decision was a tough one for the FHFA team as they have worked so hard to help the Enterprises remain strong suppliers of support to the secondary mortgage markets. Unfortunately, the antiquated capital requirements and the turmoil in housing markets over-whelmed all the good and hard work put in by the FHFA teams and the Enterprises’ managers and employees. Conservatorship will give the Enterprises the time to restore the balances between safety and soundness and provide affordable housing and stability and liquidity to the mortgage markets. I want to thank the FHFA employees for their work during this intense regulatory process. They represent the best in public service. I would also like to thank the employees of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for all their hard work. Working together we can finish the job of restoring confidence in the Enterprises and with the new legislation build a stronger and safer future for the mortgage markets, homeowners and renters in America.

Thank you and I will now turn it back to Secretary Paulson.

Well, there you have it.  The government has again decided that it has to bail someone out “for the better good of all of the citizens.”  But where and when is this going to stop?  Is it going to be that any time a major financial institution, who greatly affects the economy, goes under the government is going to bail them out so that the the economy doesn’t get worse?  When it comes to the economy, the government needs to learn how to let things just run their course, otherwise major companies will begin to see a pattern that they can take risks, and if they wind up losing, the government “will have to bail us out!”

We cannot continue to allow this government intervention to happen, otherwise we will completely destroy the flow of our free economy.

Done Ranting,

Ranting Republican
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3 Responses to “Federal Government Takes Over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac”

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    […] Republican Ranting A blog that I post on whenever I see something that makes me want to go off on a Republican (Libertarian every once in a while) rant. I will cover stories from all over the nation and world, but I will try to cover as many stories about my home state of Michigan as I can (I’ll also talk a lot about Texas, because Texas is awesome!). Note, all times are for the Eastern time zone, daylight savings time when applicable, so stop leaving comments that it’s only noon in California and I said 3:00 P.M. « Federal Government Takes Over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac […]

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