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Subprime mortgage loans are made to people who have bad credit histories. Alternative loans, which the industry calls Alt-A, are made without verifying that borrowers earn income, have assets or even hold a job.

Mr. Mudd said Fannie decreased its purchases of risky loans between 2004 and 2005 from $34.5 billion to $16.3 billion.

“We did our best,” he said.

Mr. Waxman charged that the CEOs of Fannie and Freddie ignored the warnings of their chief risk officers and authorized the risky loans. In the case of Freddie´s Mr. Syron, the officer, David Andrukonis, was fired. Mr. Syron told the committee that Mr. Andrukonis was dismissed “for a variety of reasons.”

“I speculate that it was about profit,” said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland Democrat. “I speculate that it was about greed.”

“You´re all getting paid millions of dollars a year, yet you didn´t know anything about it,” Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, Georgia Republican, told the CEOs. “I didn´t hear anybody say that you knew something was wrong. Your job was rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic while it was going down and didn´t know it was going down.”

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, New York Democrat, asked Mr. Syron whether, in hindsight, “it would have been better” not to fire Mr. Andrukonis. “Do you regret firing him, buying these risky loans”?

“We thought we made the right decision at the time,” he replied, after being pressed to answer the question directly.

“The CEOs of Fannie and Freddie made reckless bets that led to the downfall of their companies,” Mr. Waxman said. “Their actions could cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars.”