I commented on an interesting article published September 14, 2012 in the Wall Street Journal, How Greenspan Misread the Risks at Fannie and Freddie. It’s an article based upon an excerpt (written by James Hagerty) from his new book The Fateful History of Fannie Mae: New Deal Birth to Mortgage Crisis Fall By James R. Hagerty.
In December of 2011 the SEC filed lawsuits against several former executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. One of the allegations in both of the two lawsuits is that former executives of Fannie and Freddie mis-categorized mortgage loans that were being bought by Fannie and Freddie and that they failed to inform investors and Fannie and Freddie’s regulator [The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight] of the true number (percentage and value) of Sub-Prime and Alt-A loans they purchased.
So, it’s not that shocking that most people who believed what Fannie and Freddie were telling them didn’t know of the significant default risk.
Only people like Michael Burry(2) Laurence Fink(3) John Paulson(4) and perhaps Stanford Kurland(5) who actually studied (or were aware of) the progressively diminishing mortgage qualification standards as the bubble formed, and who studied (or were aware of) the actual mortgage borrower income statistics, were prescient enough to become alarmed about Fannie and Freddie’s exposure to default risk.
Based upon what Fannie and Freddie were claiming as their mortgage loan quality, It should be no surprise that Alan Greenspan, John McCain, George W. Bush, Treasury Secretary, John Snow and the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight [OFEO] were more concerned about the impact of credit rate risk and accounting fraud at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac than they seem to have been about default risk.(6)
(1) Reference SEC Website SEC CHARGES FORMER FANNIE MAE AND FREDDIE MAC EXECUTIVES WITH SECURITIES FRAUD.
(2) Reference, Betting on the Blind Side By Michael Lewis – pub. Vanity Fair Magazine | April 2010.
(3) Reference, Inside the Trillionaires Club at BlackRock pub. Forbes Magazine August 17, 2009. From the article:
LESSON 2: When investments get complex, do your homework:
. . . In late 2006 the company developed a model that put a lower, more realistic number on the incomes subprime borrowers were claiming on their "no doc" loans. The projections were shocking: BlackRock figured that when the loans reset to their new, higher rates in a couple of years, most borrowers would be spending more than half their real incomes on mortgage payments. Foreseeing an avalanche of defaults, BlackRock dumped subprime bonds in early 2007 when the prices were still lofty.
(4) See, John Paulson, Trader Made Billions on Sub-Prime By Gregory Zuckerman pub. Wall Street Journal January 15, 2008.
(5) See, Stanford Kurland - Former Countrywide No.2 Sees Opportunity in Troubled Mortgages By Matthew Padilla Orange County Register - June 10, 2008. From the article:
Q. How did this venture come about?
A. I was somewhat in a state of retirement. I left Countrywide in 2006 after 27 years. From the sidelines, I was watching the mortgage market meltdown and was in communication with associates of mine over what it was going to take to improve or revitalize the mortgage market. Wall Street firms were reaching out to me on whether I had an interest in participating with them. I got a call from the chairman of BlackRock, Laurence Fink, who asked if I would meet a group of executives who were talking about how to address issues in the mortgage market, and they were working with another company (Highfields Capital Management).
I was very receptive to talking to Larry Fink. We had grown up together and have been friends since grade school days.
Q. Where did you and Mr. Fink grow up?
A. We grew up in Van Nuys. That’s the valley.
(6) See, YouTube video-clip, Timeline: George Bush, John McCain Warn Democrats of Housing Crisis, at:
In this PBS NewsHour video-clip aired January 21, 1998 President Bill Clinton points to his accomplishment of having his 'regulators' force banks to grant loans to applicants to whom the banks would not have otherwise granted loans.
In this video-clip President Clinton, claims that 85% of the loans issued under the guidelines of the (then 20 plus year old) Community Reinvestment Act were issued during his first five years in office.
Is it any wonder that the GSE's, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, under direction from Clinton and his two administration's HUD Chairmen, Henry Cisneros, and later Andrew Cuomo, continued lowering the standards for loans they would purchase from mortgage originators?
And, is it any wonder that investment banking interests devised ways to 'package' large numbers of mortgage loans into "tranches" of different risk level in order to diversify the risk they were being pressured through regulatory mandate, and political persuasion, to accept?
Notice that Clinton mentions this activity was not necessarily an affirmative action or civil rights oriented activity, but rather that it had significant impact on the economy. . . .
See, The Community Reinvestment Act, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_Reinvestment_Act
Bill Clinton's Drive to Increase Homeownership Went Way Too Far By Peter Coy -pub. in Bloomberg BusinessWeek 2/28/2008, at: http://www.businessweek.com/the_thread/hotproperty/archives/2008/02/clintons_...
Bill Clinton, Wanted For Crimes Against Our Economy By Jim Newman pub. 2/27/2012, at: http://kayleighmcenany.com/2012/02/27/jim-newman-bill-clinton-wanted-for-crimes-against-our-economy/
Key words search for: Janet Reno threatens banks
BUSINESS DAY | February 05, 2012
A Mortgage Tornado Warning, Unheeded
By GRETCHEN MORGENSON
Inspired by a personal experience, a businessman began delving into the practices of the mortgage industry, including Fannie Mae. His findings have been prescient.
Ms. Morgenson:Regarding MERS, a few months ago I read that MERS was actually conceived by Fannie Mae and the concept was described in a presentation given at a Mortgage Bankers Association convention in 1993 or 1994. The article claimed Fannie got positive feedback on the MERS concept from the mortgage bankers. The article claimed that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac then funded the development of MERS with contributions of 2 million dollars each. After MERS was 'brought live' Fannie and Freddie invited large mortgage industry members to join MERS on a subscription basis.I've searched again for the article(s) recently, but I haven't been able to find the articles that described the actual creation of MERS. Perhaps the articles have been "scrubbed".What I read seems to confirm the leadership role that Fannie and Freddie had, and the ways these two GSE's influenced and led the industry, and how they shaped practices in the industry. You might find the two articles referenced below interesting:Is FM Watch a Crusader With an Agenda? By Louis Sichelman – RealtyTimes, pub. 7/5/1999 at: http://realtytimes.com/rtpages/19990705_fmwatch.htmNew Alliance Confronts FM Watch, Champions Existing Housing Finance System By Broderick Perkins RealtyTimes, pub. 10/5/2000> http://realtytimes.com/rtpages/20001005_fmwatch.htm
Congressman Ron Paul U.S. House of Representatives July 16, 2002*
Mr. Speaker, I rise to introduce the Free Housing Market Enhancement Act. This legislation restores a free market in housing by repealing special privileges for housing-related government sponsored enterprises (GSEs). These entities are the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie), the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie), and the National Home Loan Bank Board (HLBB). According to the Congressional Budget Office, the housing-related GSEs received $13.6 billion worth of indirect federal subsidies in fiscal year 2000 alone.
One of the major government privileges granted these GSEs is a line of credit to the United States Treasury. According to some estimates, the line of credit may be worth over $2 billion. This explicit promise by the Treasury to bail out these GSEs in times of economic difficulty helps them attract investors who are willing to settle for lower yields than they would demand in the absence of the subsidy. Thus, the line of credit distorts the allocation of capital. More importantly, the line of credit is a promise on behalf of the government to engage in a massive unconstitutional and immoral income transfer from working Americans to holders of GSE debt.
The Free Housing Market Enhancement Act also repeals the explicit grant of legal authority given to the Federal Reserve to purchase the debt of housing-related GSEs. GSEs are the only institutions besides the United States Treasury granted explicit statutory authority to monetize their debt through the Federal Reserve. This provision gives the GSEs a source of liquidity unavailable to their competitors.
Ironically, by transferring the risk of a widespread mortgage default, the government increases the likelihood of a painful crash in the housing market. This is because the special privileges of Fannie, Freddie, and HLBB have distorted the housing market by allowing them to attract capital they could not attract under pure market conditions. As a result, capital is diverted from its most productive use into housing. This reduces the efficacy of the entire market and thus reduces the standard of living of all Americans.
However, despite the long-term damage to the economy inflicted by the government’s interference in the housing market, the government’s policies of diverting capital to other uses creates a short-term boom in housing. Like all artificially-created bubbles, the boom in housing prices cannot last forever. When housing prices fall, homeowners will experience difficulty as their equity is wiped out. Furthermore, the holders of the mortgage debt will also have a loss. These losses will be greater than they would have otherwise been had government policy not actively encouraged over-investment in housing.
Perhaps the Federal Reserve can stave off the day of reckoning by purchasing GSE debt and pumping liquidity into the housing market, but this cannot hold off the inevitable drop in the housing market forever. In fact, postponing the necessary but painful market corrections will only deepen the inevitable fall. The more people invested in the market, the greater the effects across the economy when the bubble bursts.
No less an authority than Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has expressed concern that government subsidies provided to the GSEs make investors underestimate the risk of investing in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Mr. Speaker, it is time for Congress to act to remove taxpayer support from the housing GSEs before the bubble bursts and taxpayers are once again forced to bail out investors misled by foolish government interference in the market. I therefore hope my colleagues will stand up for American taxpayers and investors by cosponsoring the Free Housing Market Enhancement Act.
Many politicians, some federal regulators, and many vocal media commentators claim that the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and its regulatory evolution had nothing to do with the creation of the U.S. housing and mortgage bubble. It seems that, at some point in the near future, an objective review of the facts may require a revision of the claim that the CRA was not a significant factor in the creation of the U.S. housing and mortgage bubble.1
The Community Reinvestment Act: Its Evolution and New Challenges*
A speech by Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, Ben S. Bernanke
At the Community Affairs Research Conference, Washington, D.C.
March 30, 2007
From the third paragraph below the heading: The Evolution of The CRA
Even as these developments were occurring, extensive change was taking place in the financial services sector. During the 1980s and 1990s, technological progress significantly improved data collection and information processing, which led to the development and widespread use of credit-scoring models and the availability of generic credit history scores. Deregulation also contributed to the changes in the marketplace. Notably, the lifting of prohibitions against interstate banking was followed by an increased pace of industry consolidation. Also, the preemption of usury laws on home loans created more scope for risk-based pricing of mortgages. Securitization of affordable housing loans expanded, as did the secondary market for those loans, in part reflecting a 1992 law that required the government-sponsored enterprises, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to devote a percentage of their activities to meeting affordable housing goals (HUD, 2006). A generally strong economy and lower interest rates also helped improved access to credit by lower-income households.
An excerpt from an article which appeared in The Wall Street Journal Opinion Section – December 8, 2011
Subsidizing Wall Street to Buy Chinese Solar Panels*
By T.J. RODGERS
At the end of the recently released film "Margin Call," the chairman of the fictional investment bank that triggered the mortgage-backed securities meltdown sits in his executive dining room, looking down on the Hudson River sunset while enjoying a steak and an expensive bottle of Bordeaux. Why not? He has just saved billions for his shareholders by dumping the firm's entire "toxic loan" portfolio in one hectic trading day. Just before giving a bonus to the brilliant analyst who foresaw the meltdown only hours in advance, the chairman predicts, "There's going to be a lot of money made coming out of this mess."
Wall Street understands how to make money, up-market or down. "Margin Call" may fuel Occupy movement ire, but in creating mortgage-backed securities, Wall Street did nothing other than facilitate home-financing access to the next tier of less-qualified home buyers, as demanded by every president since Bill Clinton. After that, the bankers did exactly what their shareholders wanted: bundle those risky loans into securities, sell them to lock in the profits, and dump the risk right back onto the federal government—where it belonged.
My purpose is not to debate the morality of mortgage-backed securities but to update the Law of Unintended Consequences with the corollary Law of Misguided Subsidies: Whenever Washington disrupts a market by dumping subsidies into it, Wall Street will find a way to pocket a majority of the money while the intended subsidy beneficiaries are harmed by the resulting market turmoil.
The recent crash in mortgage-backed securities was a near-repeat of the savings-and-loan crash of the 1980s, in which Washington insured the S&L industry but failed to set limits on high-risk loans. When the bubble burst, Washington paid Wall Street the insurance money while homeowners lost huge sums in real-estate hell. Wall Street understands how to manage risk; the federal government and consumers do not.
The complete article may be seen at: