Federal officials unveiled an extraordinary takeover on Sunday of troubled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, signaling the most dramatic move to date aimed at shoring up the nation's housing market.
The plan, which was delivered by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and James Lockhart, director of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise, places the twin mortgage buyers into "conservatorship" to be overseen by the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Under conservatorship, the government would temporarily run Fannie and Freddie until they are on stronger footing.
"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," Paulson said.
Both agencies will be open for business Monday morning. Dividends on both common and preferred shares will be eliminated in an effort to preserve capital.
The regulators also ousted Richard Syron and Daniel Mudd, chief executive of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, respectively. ...
Fannie and Freddie have become virtually the only source of funding for banks and other home lenders looking to make home loans. Their ability to do so is crucial to the recovery of the battered home market and the broader U.S. economy.
The two firms buy loans, attach a guarantee, then sell securities backed by the loans' income stream. They have been badly hurt in the last year by the sharp decline in home prices and the rise in mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures.
Both companies have been losing money for the past few quarters due to the subprime mortgage meltdown and steep declines in housing prices.
Shares of both companies are down more than 80% so far this year.
The cost of the government intervention remains unclear. Experts argue that it will depend in large part on the structure of the rescue, the direction of home prices and mortgage default rates. Still it seems almost certain it will run into the billions and will most likely eclipse such other high-profile government bailouts including than the Federal Reserve's $29 billion backing of Bear Stearns assets when it was taken over by J.P. Morgan Chase.
Another unintended yet unavoidable consequence may be the impact to the nation's banks.
Some of the nation's largest financial institutions including JPMorgan Chase and Sovereign Bancorp own a big chunk of the estimated $36 billion in preferred shares of Fannie and Freddie, which are at risk of being wiped out should Fannie and Freddie end up getting a cash infusion from the Treasury Department.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
Big Brother Seizes Fannie and Freddie
Let's be blunt, this is a Soviet-style seizure of private businesses. Are we really to believe that both Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac went broke on the exact same weekend?