Fannie and Freddie Stock Delisted from NYSE
Quasi-governmental mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have voluntarily delisted their stock from the New York Stock Exchange after their values fell to less than $1.
The other option was to present a plan to bring share value back above $1, but the federal regulator in charge of the firms opted against that because, according to a notice from Federal Housing Finance Agency, the government couldn’t be sure of success.
"A voluntary delisting at this time simply makes sense and fits with the goal of a conservatorship to preserve and conserve assets," said Edward DeMarco, the agency's acting director.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, Nick Timiraos (06/17/2010)
The Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA) (NYSE: FNM), commonly known as Fannie Mae, is a stockholder-owned
corporation chartered by Congress in 1968 as a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE), but founded in 1938 during the Great Depression. The corporation's purpose is to purchase and securitize
mortgages in order to ensure that funds are consistently available to the institutions that lend money to
On September 7, 2008, James Lockhart, director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were being placed into conservatorship of the FHFA. The action is "one of the most sweeping government interventions in private financial markets in decades". As of 2008, Fannie Mae and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) owned or guaranteed about half of the U.S.'s $12 trillion mortgage market.
Fannie Adds Incentive to Avoid Foreclosure - Apr 24, 2010
Beginning in July, Fannie Mae will allow financially troubled home owners to complete a “deed in lieu of foreclosure” or a short sale and be eligible to apply for a new Fannie-backed mortgage in two years.
Currently, borrowers who have completed a deed-in-lieu must wait four years to apply for a loan that Fannie will purchase. Home buyers who go through
foreclosure must wait five years.
All these waiting periods can be reduced further, if the potential buyer can show extenuating circumstances. "We are beginning to think about post-recession, how you address borrowers who became unemployed through no fault of their own ... and now deserve the right to re-enter the housing-finance system," said Federal Housing Association Commissioner David Stevens.
Fannie Mae was established in 1938 as a mechanism to make mortgages more available to low-income families. It was added to the Federal Home Mortgage association, a government agency in the wake of the Great Depression in 1938, as part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal in order to facilitate liquidity within the mortgage market. In 1968, the government converted Fannie Mae into a private shareholder-owned corporation in order to remove its activity from the annual balance sheet of the federal budget. Consequently, Fannie Mae ceased to be the guarantor of government-issued mortgages, and that responsibility was transferred to the new Government National Mortgage Association (Ginnie Mae). In 1970, the government created the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC), commonly known as
Freddie Mac, to compete with Fannie Mae and, thus, facilitate a more robust and efficient secondary mortgage market. Since the creation of the GSEs, there has been debate surrounding their role in the mortgage market, their relationship with the government, and whether or not they are indeed necessary. This debate gained relevance due to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and subprime mortgage crisis that began in 2007. Despite this debate, Fannie Mae, as well as
Ginnie Mae and later Freddie Mac, has played an integral part in the development of what was the most successful mortgage market in the world which has allowed U.S. citizens to benefit from one of the highest home ownership percentages in the world.
Contributing factors and early warnings
In 1999, Fannie Mae came under pressure from the Clinton administration to expand mortgage loans to low and moderate income borrowers. At the same time, institutions in the primary mortgage market pressed Fannie Mae to ease credit requirements on the mortgages it was willing to purchase, enabling them to make loans to subprime borrowers at interest rates higher than conventional loans. Shareholders also pressured Fannie Mae to maintain its record profits.
In 2000, due to a re-assessment of the housing market by
HUD, anti-predatory lending rules were put into place that disallowed risky, high-cost loans from being credited toward
affordable housing goals. In 2004, these rules were dropped and high-risk loans were again counted toward affordable housing goals.
The intent was that Fannie Mae's enforcement of the underwriting standards they maintained for standard conforming mortgages would also provide safe and stable means of lending to buyers who did not have prime credit. As Daniel Mudd, then President and CEO of Fannie Mae, testified in 2007, instead the agency's responsible underwriting requirements drove business into the arms of the private mortgage industry who marketed aggressive products without regard to future consequences: "We also set conservative underwriting standards for loans we finance to ensure the
homebuyers can afford their loans over the long term. We sought to bring the standards we apply to the prime space to the
subprime market with our industry partners primarily to expand our services to underserved families.
"Unfortunately, Fannie Mae-quality, safe loans in the subprime market did not become the standard, and the lending market moved away from us. Borrowers were offered a range of loans that layered teaser rates, interest-only, negative amortization and payment options and low-documentation requirements on top of floating-rate loans. In early 2005 we began sounding our concerns about this "layered-risk" lending. For example, Tom Lund, the head of our single-family mortgage business, publicly stated, "One of the things we don't feel good about right now as we look into this marketplace is more homebuyers being put into programs that have more risk. Those products are for more sophisticated buyers. Does it make sense for borrowers to take on risk they may not be aware of? Are we setting them up for failure? As a result, we gave up significant market share to our competitors. "
In 1999, The New York Times reported that with the corporation's move towards the subprime market "Fannie Mae is taking on significantly more risk, which may not pose any difficulties during flush economic times. But the government-subsidized corporation may run into trouble in an economic downturn, prompting a government rescue similar to that of the savings and loan industry in the 1980s." Alex Berenson of The New York Times reported in 2003 that Fannie Mae's risk is much larger than is commonly held. Nassim Taleb wrote in The Black Swan: "The government-sponsored institution Fannie Mae, when I look at its risks, seems to be sitting on a barrel of dynamite, vulnerable to the slightest hiccup. But not to worry: their large staff of scientists deem these events 'unlikely'".
In 2002, President George W. Bush signed the Single-Family Affordable Housing Tax Credit Act. Dubbed "Renewing the Dream," the program would give nearly $2.4 billion in tax credits over the next five years to investors and builders who develop affordable single-family housing in distressed areas.
On September 11, 2003, the Bush Administration recommended the most significant regulatory overhaul in the housing finance industry since the savings and loan crisis. Under the plan, a new agency would be created within the Treasury Department to assume supervision of Fannie Mae. The new agency would have the authority, which now rests with Congress, to set capital-reserve requirements for the company and to determine whether the company is adequately managing the risks of its ballooning portfolios. The New York Times reported that the plan is an acknowledgment by the administration that oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is broken. The Times also reported Democratic opposition to Bush's plan: "These two entities -- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- are not facing any kind of financial crisis," said Representative Barney Frank of
Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee. "The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing."
On December 16, 2003, President George W. Bush signed the American Dream Down payment Act, a new program that provided grants to help home buyers with down payment and
closing costs. The act authorized $200 million dollars per year for the program for fiscal years 2004-2007.
President Bush also tripled the funding for organizations like Habitat for Humanity that help families help themselves become homeowners through 'sweat equity' and volunteerism in their communities. Substantially increasing, by at least $440 billion, the financial commitment made by the government-sponsored enterprises involved in the secondary mortgage market specifically targeted toward the minority market.
On January 26, 2005, the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005 (S.190) was first introduced in the Senate by Sen. Chuck Hagel. The Senate legislation was an effort to reform the existing GSE regulatory structure in light of the recent accounting problems and questionable management actions leading to considerable income restatements by the GSE's. After being reported favorably by the Senate's Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs in July 2005, the bill was never considered by the full Senate for a vote. Sen. John McCain's decision to become a cosponsor of S.190 almost a year later in 2006 was the last action taken regarding Sen. Hagel's bill in spite of developments since clearing the Senate Committee. Sen. McCain pointed out that Fannie Mae's regulator reported that profits were "illusions deliberately and systematically created by the company's senior management" in his floor statement giving support to S.190.
At the same time, the House also introduced similar legislation, the Federal Housing Finance Reform Act of 2005 (H.R. 1461), in the Spring of 2005. The House Financial Services Committee had crafted changes and produced a Committee Report by July 2005 to the legislation. It was passed by the House in October in spite of President Bush's statement of policy opposed to the House version. The legislation met with opposition from both Democrats and Republicans and that point and the Senate never took up the House passed version for consideration after that.
Fannie Mae headquarters at 3900 Wisconsin Avenue, NW in Washington, D.C.Fannie Mae buys loans from approved mortgage sellers, either for cash or in exchange for a mortgage-backed security that comprises those loans and that, for a fee, carries Fannie Mae's guarantee of timely payment of interest and principal. The mortgage seller may hold that security or sell it. Fannie Mae may also securitize mortgages from its own loan portfolio and sell the resultant mortgage-backed security to investors in the secondary mortgage market, again with a guarantee that the stated principal and interest payments will be timely passed through to the investor. By purchasing the mortgages, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac provide banks and other financial institutions with fresh money to make new loans. This gives the United States housing and credit markets flexibility and liquidity.
In order for Fannie Mae to provide its guarantee to mortgage-backed securities it issues, it sets the guidelines for the loans that it will accept for purchase, called "conforming" loans. Mortgages that don't follow the guidelines are called "non-conforming"; typically the secondary market for non-conforming loans deals in mortgages larger (termed "jumbo") than the maximum mortgage that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will purchase. In early 2008, the decision was made to allow TBA-eligible MBS to include up to 10% "jumbo" mortgages.
One part of Fannie Mae's income is generated through the positive interest rate spread between the rate paid to fund the purchase of mortgage investments and the return it earns on those retained mortgage investments. Fannie Mae's mortgage portfolio was in excess of $700 billion as of August 2008. Fannie Mae also earns a significant portion of its income from guaranty fees it receives as compensation for assuming the credit risk on the mortgage loans underlying its single-family Fannie Mae MBS and on the single-family mortgage loans held in its retained portfolio. Investors, or purchasers of Fannie Mae MBSs, are willing to let Fannie Mae keep this fee in exchange for assuming the credit risk; that is, Fannie Mae's guarantee that the scheduled principal and interest on the underlying loan will be paid even if the borrower defaults.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have a limit on the maximum sized loan they will guarantee. This is known as the "conforming loan limit". The conforming loan limit for Fannie Mae (along with Freddie Mac) is set by Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO), the regulator of both GSEs. OFHEO annually sets the limit of the size of a conforming loan based on the October to October changes in mean home price, above which a mortgage is considered a non-conforming jumbo loan. The GSEs only buy loans that are conforming, to repackage into the secondary market, lowering the demand for non-conforming loans. By virtue of the law of supply and demand, then, it is harder for lenders to sell the loans, thus it would cost more to the consumers (typically 1/4 to 1/2 of a percent.) The conforming loan limit is 50 percent higher in
Hawaii. However, in 2008, since the demand for bonds not guaranteed by the corporations is almost non-existent, non-conforming loans are almost 1% to 1.5% higher than the conforming loans.
Guarantees and subsidies
Speculation that the U.S. government would bail out an insolvent Fannie Mae is a hypothesis that had never been tested until recently, when the subprime mortgage crisis hit the U.S.
On July 11, 2008, the New York Times reported that U.S. government officials were considering a plan for the U.S. government to take over Fannie Mae and/or Freddie Mac should their financial situations worsen due to the U.S. housing crisis. The government officials also stated that the government had also considered calling for explicit government guarantee through legislation of $5 trillion on debt owned or guaranteed by the two companies.
Shares in U.S. mortgage finance firms Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac plunged on Friday, July 11, 2008, and market speculation mounted that the government was set to take them over to resolve their funding problems.
Shares continued to plummet as investors became unsure about the adequacy of the capital held by FNMA. U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson as well as the White House went on the air to defend the financial soundness of Fannie Mae.
Fannie Mae and smaller Freddie Mac own or guarantee almost half of all home loans in the United States. They face billions of dollars in potential losses, and may need to raise additional, potentially substantial, amounts of new capital as the current downturn in the U.S. housing market continues.
Markets assume that the taxpayer will if necessary take on the burden of all their mortgages because they underpin the whole U.S. mortgage market. If they were to collapse, mortgages would be harder to obtain and much more expensive. U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has said the government's primary focus is in supporting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in their current form.
No actual guarantees
Fannie Mae receives no direct government funding or backing; Fannie Mae securities carry no government guarantee of being repaid. This is explicitly stated in the law that authorizes GSEs, on the securities themselves, and in many public communications issued by Fannie Mae.
Neither the certificates nor payments of principal and interest on the certificates are guaranteed by the United States government. The certificates do not constitute a debt or obligation of the United States or any of its agencies or instrumentalities other than Fannie Mae.
The perception of government guarantees has allowed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to save billions in borrowing costs. Estimates by the Congressional Budget Office and the Treasury Department put the figure at about $2 billion per year.
There is a wide belief that FNMA securities are backed by some sort of implied federal guarantee, and a majority of investors believe that the government would prevent a disastrous default. Vernon L. Smith, 2002 Nobel Laureate in economics, has called FHLMC and FNMA "implicitly taxpayer-backed agencies".
The Economist has referred to "the implicit government guarantee" of FHLMC and FNMA. In testimony before the House and Senate Banking Committee in 2004, Alan Greenspan expressed the belief that Fannie Mae's (weak) financial position was the result of markets believing that the U.S. Government would never allow Fannie Mae (or Freddie Mac) to fail.
The FNMA receives no direct federal government aid. However, the corporation and the securities it issues are widely believed to be implicitly backed by the U.S. government. In 1996, the Congressional Budget Office wrote "there have been no federal appropriations for cash payments or guarantee subsidies. But in the place of federal funds the government provides considerable unpriced benefits to the enterprises... Government-sponsored enterprises are costly to the government and taxpayers... the benefit is currently worth $6.5 billion annually.". Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are allowed to hold less capital than normal financial institutions: e.g., it is allowed to sell mortgage-backed securities with only half as much capital backing them up as would be required of other financial institutions. Specifically, regulations exist through the FDIC Bank Holding Company Act that govern the solvency of financial institutions. The regulations require normal financial institutions to maintain a capital/asset ratio greater than or equal to 3%. The GSEs, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, are exempt from this capital/asset ratio requirement and can, and often do, maintain a capital/asset ratio less than 3%. The additional leverage allows for greater returns in good times, but put the companies at greater risk in bad times, such as during the current subprime mortgage crisis. FNMA is also exempt from state and local taxes. In addition, FNMA and FHLMC are exempt from SEC filing requirements; however, both GSEs voluntarily file their SEC 10-K and 10-Q.
FNMA is a financial corporation which uses derivatives to "hedge" its cash flow. Derivative products it uses include interest rate swaps and options to enter interest rate swaps ("pay-fixed swaps", "receive-fixed swaps", "basis swaps", "interest rate caps and swaptions", "forward starting swaps").
Duration gap is a financial and accounting term for the difference between the duration of assets and liabilities, and is typically used by banks, pension funds, or other financial institutions to measure their risk due to changes in the interest rate
- FNMA's accounting is discussed in Barron's: Fannie Mae faces more income issues - Banks - Financial - Real Estate - Financial Services - General
"The company said that in April its average duration gap widened to plus 3 months in April from zero in March." "The Washington-based company aims to keep its duration gap between minus 6 months to plus 6 months. From September 2003 to March, the gap has run between plus to minus one month."
- UPDATE - Fannie Mae average duration gap widens in April
Main article: Federal takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae placed into US government conservatorship
On September 7, 2008, Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) Director James B. Lockhart III announced pursuant to the financial analysis, assessments and statutory authority of the FHFA, he had placed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac under the conservatorship of the FHFA. FHFA has stated that there are no plans to liquidate the company. The announcement followed reports two days earlier that the Federal government was planning to take over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and had met with their CEOs on short notice. Under plan announced September 7, 2008, the federal government, via the Federal Housing Finance Agency, placed the two firms into conservatorship, dismissed the firms' chief executive officers and boards of directors, and caused the issuance to the Treasury new senior preferred stock and common stock warrants amounting to 79.9% of each GSE. The value of the common stock and preferred stock to pre-conservatorship holders was greatly diminished by the suspension of future dividends on previously outstanding stock, in the effort to maintain the value of company debt and of mortgage-backed securities. The authority of the U.S. Treasury to advance funds for the purpose of stabilizing Fannie Mae, or Freddie Mac is limited only by the amount of debt that the entire federal government is permitted by law to commit to. The July 30, 2008 law enabling expanded regulatory authority over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac increased the national debt ceiling US$ 800 billion, to a total of US $10.7 Trillion in anticipation of the potential need for the Treasury to have the flexibility to support the federal home loan banks.
In late 2004, Fannie Mae was under investigation for its accounting practices. The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight released a report on September 20, 2004, alleging widespread accounting errors.
Fannie Mae was expected to spend more than $1 billion in 2006 alone to complete its internal audit and bring it closer to compliance. The necessary restatement was expected to cost $10.8 billion, but was completed at a total cost of $6.3 billion in restated earnings as listed in Fannie Mae's Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Concerns with business and accounting practices at Fannie Mae predate the scandal itself. On June 15, 2000, the House Banking Subcommittee On Capital Markets, Securities And Government-Sponsored Enterprises held hearings on Fannie Mae.
On December 18, 2006, U.S. regulators filed 101 civil charges against chief executive Franklin Raines; chief financial officer J. Timothy Howard; and the former controller Leanne G. Spencer. The three are accused of manipulating Fannie Mae earnings to maximize their bonuses. The lawsuit sought to recoup more than $115 million in bonus payments, collectively accrued by the trio from 1998–2004, and about $100 million in penalties for their involvement in the accounting scandal.
Conflict of interest
Further information: Countrywide financial political loan scandal
In June 2008, the Wall Street Journal reported that two former CEOs of Fannie Mae, James A. Johnson and Franklin Raines had received loans below market rate from Countrywide Financial. Fannie Mae was the biggest buyer of Countrywide's mortgages.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have given contributions to lawmakers currently sitting on committees that primarily regulate their industry: The House Financial Services Committee; the Senate Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs Committee; or the Senate Finance Committee. The others have seats on the Appropriations or Ways & Means committees, are members of the congressional leadership or have run for president.
Barney Frank has been a member of the House Financial Services Committee since 1991 (and is currently the chair). The HFSC is one of two government entities responsible for oversight of Fannie Mae. From 1991 to 1998, Barney Frank was in a romantic relationship with Herb Moses, who was an executive at Fannie Mae. While at Fannie Mae, Moses helped develop many of Fannie Mae’s affordable housing and home improvement lending programs. Other lawmakers have called this a "clear conflict of interest."
- Herbert M. Allison (2008– )
- Daniel Mudd (2005–2008)
- Franklin Raines (1999–2004)
- James A. Johnson (1991–1998)
- David Maxwell (1981-1991)
- Allan O. Hunter (1970–1981)
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