Former Treasury Official Warns that Freddie & Fannie are Becoming 'Wards of the State'

Likelihood that the taxpayer are ever repaid for Fannie and Freddie’s monumental losses: Approaching nil.

The government’s failure to overhaul mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is pushing the U.S. toward nationalization of the mortgage market, and would-be homeowners will be the losers if competition between private companies isn’t restored.

That’s according to Jim Millstein, the former Treasury Department official who oversaw the reorganization of American International Group Inc., who thinks the government will have to get into the business of reinsuring mortgages if it wants to restore the private sector’s role in mortgage securitization, and reduce taxpayer exposure to Fannie and Freddie.

Millstein, the Treasury Department’s chief restructuring officer from 2009 to 2011, says neither the Obama administration nor Congress has put forward a workable plan to lift mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac out of conservatorship.


There’s no plan to address this in Obama’s little blue booklet. If he gets his druthers, banks will be forced into lending to people who would not normally qualify for mortgages, again.

Increasing the fees charged by the companies and taking all of their earnings threatens to make Fannie and Freddie “permanent wards of the state,” Millstein argues in an editorial he co-wrote with Phillip Swagel, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy.

Read the rest. The authors lay out a plan that’s more serious and less state-centered than anything that has come out of the current president or his team. They also note that Congress’ current plan is counterproductive.

The Treasury Department’s decision to claim Fannie and Freddie’s earnings as dividends is intended to make sure that taxpayers recoup the $141 billion they’re still owed from bailing the companies out (Treasury has invested $187 billion in the companies and received in $46 billion in dividends). But the government’s “cash sweep” prevents Fannie and Freddie from building up capital reserves that would protect taxpayers against potential losses on $4.5 trillion in mortgage guarantees, Millstein and Swagel argue.



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