- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 3, 2009

A mortgage industry group wants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac replaced with private companies that would be able to issue mortgage bonds formally backed by the federal government.

The Mortgage Bankers Association’s proposal, released Wednesday, offers a detailed plan for how to restructure the U.S. mortgage market, which has been torn apart by the housing bust.

The Obama administration doesn’t expect to announce its plans for the two companies until early next year. It has listed several options, including merging them into a federal agency, shutting them down or have their bad mortgage assets split into a new government-backed company.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac own or guarantee about $5.4 trillion in mortgage debt and have needed about $96 billion in federal aid since they were seized by federal regulators last fall. The companies’ debt is not officially backed by the federal government, but has been effectively guaranteed since the takeover.

The mortgage bankers’ plan would replace Fannie and Freddie with several federally regulated private companies known as Mortgage Credit Guarantor Entities (nicknamed “McGees”). They would buy loans and sell them as bonds with their own guarantee attached, and would pay the government a fee for its backing.

For investor confidence to return to the market for mortgage-backed securities, “there has to be an explicit government backstop,” said John Courson, the trade group’s president.

Fannie and Freddie could be restructured into the new companies, but they would have to shed their bad mortgage assets first, possibly in the form of a government-owned “bad bank.” Major banks such as Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo & Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., could also take up this role, provided they create separate subsidiaries to do so.

While Fannie and Freddie made massive bets on mortgages and associated derivatives, their replacements would only be able to have a minimal investment portfolio, according to the mortgage bankers’ plan.

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