Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fannie, Freddie Changes

by Bill McBride on 12/29/2009 11:04:00 PM

There has been much more on the Dec 24th press release from Treasury.

From the WSJ: Questions Surround Fannie, Freddie

From Tim Duy: Why Christmas Eve?

I think Linda Lowell at HousingWire has a good explanation: Treasury Updates Its GSE Support; And the Mainstream Misleads

First on the timing:

It’s in the law: the Treasury’s authorization in [Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA) of 2008] to alter the terms, conditions and amounts under any agreements (such as the PSPAs) to purchase Fannie or Freddie obligations expires December 31, 2009. After that date, new authorization would be required from Congress.
That explains the timing. My guess is some people at Treasury aren't working this week, so last Thursday was the deadline.

As far as why uncap Fannie and Freddie even though the current caps looked sufficient:
Too much is at stake, for taxpaying homeowners, to leave outstanding even a small “tail risk” that one of the enterprises would penetrate the cap. We’ve all seen how politics - even the agendas of a small minority - can stall lawmaking by the majority. Read the law (HERA): if a deficiency goes unfunded, the deficient enterprise goes into receivership.
And receivership (as opposed to the current conservatorship) means the enterprise would be wound down. So Ms. Lowell suggests this was probably to avoid a low probability event that could have triggered a huge political battle - and put the housing market at further risk since the housing market is currently "overwhelmingly supported by FHA/Ginnie Mae, Fannie and Freddie".

Also, on my earlier speculation about whether this was related to HAMP, Nick Timiraos at the WSJ writes:
A Treasury representative said the bailout caps were suspended "specifically to ensure continued confidence in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but were not based on any considerations" related to an expansion of the administration's loan-modification program.
I guess this qualifies as a huge nothingburger.