Volume 14 - Number 19
September 19, 2014
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Congress should put the screws to the Treasury Department to disclose all documents pertaining to the origins of the Obama administration’s controversial “net-worth sweep” of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac profits, according to a coalition of right-leaning public policy groups. In a letter dispatched late this week to the top Republican and Democrat of the House Financial Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, the 17 groups led by the Competitive Enterprise Institute urged lawmakers to intervene to impose transparency over what GSE shareholders consider an extra-legal maneuver by the executive branch.
Hundreds of community banks, credit unions and community development financial intuitions within the Federal Home Loan Bank system will be adversely impacted and even face expulsion from the FHLBanks if a proposed Federal Housing Finance Agency rule change goes into effect, say rule opponents. The FHFA’s proposal, issued earlier this month, would change the FHLBank membership qualifications by imposing an ongoing asset test on FHLB members, requiring that they track and report on the mortgage-related assets they hold on their books.
The Senate voted this week to approve the nomination of Laura Wertheimer to be the newest Inspector General of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Wertheimer, a Washington, DC, securities lawyer in private practice, was nominated by President Obama in May to replace Steve Linick, who resigned in the summer of 2013 to serve as the State Department’s IG.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were not ready for the new representation and warranty framework that took effect early last year at the insistence of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, according to a new Inspector General audit. Announced in September 2012 and implemented Jan. 1, 2013, the framework relieved sellers from certain reps and warrants, including those relating to credit underwriting and eligibility of the borrower and the property that were formerly effective for the life of the loan.
The ongoing uncertainty about the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is weighing on the mortgage industry and it’s only going to get worse with time, said the former head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency this week. Edward DeMarco, now a senior fellow in residence for the Milken Institute’s Center for Financial Markets, warned that with the government in effective control of the mortgage market, the risk grows of capital allocation and pricing decisions made through the prism of political calculation rather than due to sound, market driven principle.
Together, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in August posted a combined increase in the volume of single-family mortgages securitized, according to a new Inside The GSEs analysis. Fannie and Freddie issued $61.1 billion in single-family mortgage-backed securities in August, a 5.5 percent increase from July. However, August's MBS issuance was down 56.7 percent on a year-to-date basis.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s most recent settlement of non-agency mortgage-backed securities lawsuit has one consumer group seeing red as it claims taxpayers will ultimately get stuck with the cost of the bank’s multi-million dollar payout. Late last week, the FHFA announced a $550 million legal deal with HSBC North American Holdings, leaving just two civil cases tied to nonprime MBS issuance still unresolved.
There is little enthusiasm in the mortgage market for higher guaranty fees charged by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, various industry groups indicated in input letters to the GSEs’ regulator. In June, the Federal Housing Finance Agency issued a call for public comment on how the GSEs should calculate g-fees and whether the FHFA should proceed with a 10 basis point g-fee hike announced last year. In one of his first acts as FHFA director in January, Mel Watt postponed the g-fee hike pending further study.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage-backed securities remained the preferred investment choice of the 12 Federal Home Loan Banks during the second quarter of 2014, with a very slight decline from the previous quarter, according to a new analysis and ranking by Inside The GSEs based on data from the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Meanwhile, Ginnie Mae securities posted an increase within the FHLBank system during the three-month period ending June 30, 2014.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s proposed capital requirements for private mortgage insurers would raise costs for borrowers but there is a need for new standards, according to industry group comments. The Mortgage Bankers Association, National Association of Realtors and several private MI companies have urged the Federal Housing Finance Agency to ease proposed capital requirements for private MIs.
The Senate’s housing finance reform bill would save the government some $60 billion over 10 years according to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, but don’t hold your breath waiting for the windfall, say critics. Earlier this month, the CBO issued its estimate, which concluded that replacing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with a new securitization program that couples a first-loss position for private capital with back-end government insurance could reduce “direct spending” by $60 billion over the 2015-2024 period.
Experts Laud FHFA’s Plan for ‘Single Security,’ But Urge Quicker Arrival at Goal. The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s “single security” proposal for a generic Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac MBS is “well-thought out” and “worthy of serious consideration,” but the agency should pick up the pace in its implementation to avoid making the solution part of the problem, according to a paper from the Urban Institute. Lewis Ranieri, chairman of Ranieri Partners, and Laurie Goodman, director of the UI’s Housing Policy Center, expressed concern that the FHFA “may be contemplating a slower pace in the project than it warrants.”
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