Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Industry Seeks Fannie, Freddie Overhaul (FRE; FNM)

From the Wall Street Journal:

A mortgage-industry trade group is calling for Congress to transform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into several smaller privately held companies that would issue mortgage securities carrying an explicit government guarantee.

The proposed framework, to be released Wednesday by the Mortgage Bankers Association, would give successor entities to Fannie and Freddie the authority to create securities backed by certain types of mortgages. The new companies would guarantee the securities against defaults on the underlying mortgages.

The new companies would also pay fees into a federal insurance fund, which would guarantee interest and principal payments to bondholders if the companies were unable to make them.

Such an insurance fund, designed to kick in only if the companies were to suffer catastrophic losses, would provide explicit federal backing. That would replace the current system, in which investors have long assumed that the government would stand behind Fannie and Freddie.

Some foreign investors in China and elsewhere lost confidence in that fuzzy implied guarantee last year and reduced their holdings of the companies' debt, though the U.S. government has propped up Fannie and Freddie with capital infusions.

"If we're going to restore and maintain investor confidence and...consistent liquidity, that is going to require an explicit backstop," said John Courson, chief executive and president of the MBA.

Shares of both Fannie and Freddie fell by more than 17% Tuesday in New York Stock Exchange trading. The price drops followed a Monday report from FBR Capital Markets that said there is "no fundamental value remaining" in the companies' shares....MUCH MORE