Nobody Panic: Government Seizes Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae

Oh dear, all that talk about Freddie and Fannie being “adequately capitalized” was utter bullshit and the government has now announced plans to place the failed government sponsored enterprises into conservatorship. That means the fate of the housing market and the global economy rest squarely on the shoulders of U.S. taxpayers.

Here’s how it went down:

  • Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson told Fannie Mae CEO Daniel Mudd (whose name is good as…) and Freddie Mac CEO Richard Syron that they and their boards were fired.
  • The companies will be placed into conservatorship of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
  • Common shareholders will be virtually wiped out. Preferred shareholders (banks) will be protected.
  • Instead of providing a massive headline-grabbing infusion of cash upfront, the government will provide quarterly subsidies to cover losses.
  • Freddie and Fannie will continue to operate normally, except taxpayers will be on the hook for future losses.

The two companies collectively back almost half of the nation’s $12 trillion mortgages, and 70% of new mortgages. They have lost $14 billion over the past year.

Both Obama and McCain announced that they support the plan, not that either of them can veto the Bush Administration’s takeover.

The Treasury made its move now partly to reassure Mexico, Japan, and China that their central banks’ shares of the Depression-era institutions will be backed by you.

Isn’t that great?!

U.S. Rescue Seen at Hand for 2 Mortgage Giants [The New York Times]
U.S. Near Deal on Fannie, Freddie [The Wall Street Journal]
Fannie, Freddie’s boards meet Saturday to mull government plan [Reuters]
PREVIOUSLY: U.S. Treasury Attempts To Save Freddie, Fannie, Avert Apocalypse
Bush Administration Considering A Takeover Of Freddie And Fanny
(Photo: Getty)