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Does Fannie Mae “Need” Another Bailout?

Monday February 22nd, 2016   •   Posted by Craig Eyermann at 5:52am PST   •  

9209401_ML Do you remember Fannie Mae? Or rather, the Federal National Mortgage Association, the government-supported enterprise which was bailed out and taken over by the U.S. Treasury Department back on September 7, 2008?

If not, ProPublica summarizes what happened to the government-backed corporation at that time:

On Sep. 7, 2008, the government took over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Under the terms of the rescue, the Treasury has invested billions to cover the companies’ losses.

The Fannie and Freddie bailout is separate from the broader $700 billion bailout — known as the TARP — and instead comes via the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, passed in July 2008. In February 2009, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said as much as $200 billion in taxpayer money might be put into each company. In December of 2009, the Treasury removed that cap, meaning an unlimited amount of money could be invested.

In August of 2012, the Treasury announced further changes to its agreements with both Fannie and Freddie. Starting in 2013, both Fannie and Freddie began paying the Treasury dividends based on a different arrangement: Each quarter, Fannie and Freddie must make payments based on their net value above a capital reserve level. In previous years, Fannie and Freddie had paid dividends based on a 10 percent annual rate.

It is looking more and more like those millions upon millions are not going to be enough to sustain the fiction of Fannie Mae’s solvency for much longer. The Fiscal Times reports that Fannie Mae needs another big bailout (subscription required, the quoted section below is as excerpted by Mike Shedlock):

Fannie Mae’s chief executive and its regulator are sounding the alarm on a decline in the institution’s capital cushion, which is on course to vanish in 2018, when it would have to ask the US Treasury for emergency funds.

Since 2008 Fannie Mae has been in the post-crisis limbo of state-sponsored “conservatorship”, neither fully nationalized nor private, following several unsuccessful attempts by Congress to overhaul it.

Because the government does not let Fannie Mae retain profits, Tim Mayopoulos, its chief executive, told the Financial Times on Friday that its capital buffer, which has dwindled from $30bn before the crisis to $1.2bn today, was on track to disappear by January 2018.

So far investors who own Fannie Mae’s mortgage-backed securities have not been spooked, Mr Mayopoulos said, but he added: “We are a major source of liquidity to the mortgage markets and it would be better to avoid testing the market as to what the breaking point is well in advance of us getting to that point.”

In effect, Fannie Mae’s new CEO is saying ‘bail us out again soon, or else’. But then, what else might we expect from a CEO whose previous role within the firm was as its general counsel and Chief Administrative Officer and who has recently advocated minimizing any reform of the housing finance industry. Mayopoulos had previously served in a similar role at Bank of America where he continued to look out after the interests of the firm’s allegedly ethically challenged executives, despite having been fired by them.

Same people. More taxpayer-funded bailouts. Go figure.

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February 2016