Fannie and Freddie are nearly out of money

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/fannie-and-freddie-are-nearly-out-of-money-and-washington-is-getting-anxious-2017-05-11

In 2008, as the financial crisis swirled, the federal government rushed Fannie Mae  and Freddie Mac into conservatorship. The two giant mortgage-finance companies became wards of the state under a new regulator that would manage their affairs until they were healthy enough to stand on their own.

Nearly nine years later, they’re still under government control. And while in some ways their crisis has receded, in other—and what some would call self-inflicted—ways, Fannie FNMA, +1.87%   and Freddie FMCC, +1.55%  still teeter on the edge of needing another taxpayer bailout.

As congressional testimony from their regulator revealed Thursday, that precarious position is starting to make policymakers nervous.

Mel Watt, director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which has oversight over the enterprises, told the Senate Banking Committee that reform is “urgently” needed. “These conservatorships are not sustainable and they need to end as soon as Congress can chart the way forward on housing finance reform,” he said.

The current state of affairs has less to do with the 2008 crisis-era legislation than with a 2012 amendment to the earlier agreement. It directed the companies to send their quarterly profits to the U.S. Treasury and progressively reduce capital buffers down to zero by 2018.

Fannie and Freddie’s zero-capital target was a self-created ultimatum. In a way, it was meant to replicate Congress’s own self-imposed sequester, in which lawmakers set a hard cap on government spending while moving toward a more comprehensive budget agreement.

With no capital, there’s little margin for error. One bad earnings period—whether due to credit losses or accounting vagaries—could send Fannie or Freddie back to the government for another bailout. That’s the last thing anyone in Congress wanted just a few short years after the crisis.

Instead, it was believed, that risk would force Congress to take action to enact a comprehensive overhaul of the housing finance system that could keep the mortgage enterprises from trying to survive quarter to quarter. At least that’s how the thinking went.

It hasn’t exactly gone according to plan.

Some congressional attempts have been made, and those ideas may just need more time. Efforts largely centered on a more market-oriented structure that would combine private capital while retaining some level of federal government backstopping. Analysts considered bipartisan Senate efforts developed over the past few years to be important starting points.

And still, 2018 is drawing near.

In his testimony, Watt repeatedly drew a distinction between his stewardship of the enterprises and broader housing finance reform, which he said was Congress’ responsibility.

If Fannie or Freddie needed to draw funds, Watt argued, it would undermine private investors’ confidence in the broader housing finance system. He likened his situation to knowingly driving passengers in a car with a faulty airbag: there’s a low risk that something bad will happen, but if it does, the impact could be catastrophic.

———-

this wont end well..

“If Fannie or Freddie needed to draw funds, Watt argued, it would undermine private investors’ confidence in the broader housing finance system.”

sub prime de ja vu?

“With no capital, there’s little margin for error. One bad earnings period—whether due to credit losses or accounting vagaries—could send Fannie or Freddie back to the government for another bailout.

401

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~ by seeker401 on May 14, 2017.

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