President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, announced Wednesday that he wants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two of the largest names in the U.S. mortgage market, out of the hands of the federal government.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac took center-stage when they began purchasing toxic mortgages sold to home-buyers with poor credit as ‘subprimes.’ The taxpayer-insured firms then sold these toxic assets as ‘mortgage-backed securities’ on stock exchanges, causing the 2008 meltdown and foreclosures on a massive scale
Together, Fannie and Freddie own or guarantee some 60 percent of all U.S. home loans.
To avoid a complete collapse of the U.S. economy, since Americans have historically held a great deal of their wealth in homes, the federal government bailed out Fannie and Freddie in 2008 for $187.5 billion. The Department of the Treasury collected profits from the two firms following 2008.
The bailout faced a great deal of scrutiny from financial experts, economists, and public policy wonks over the past decade. Trump’s pick for the secretary of the Treasury is the latest to speak out against the government bailout of Fannie and Freddie, taking a hard line against the government’s control of the two mortgage lending firms.
“We’ve got to get Fannie and Freddie out of government ownership. It makes no sense that these are owned by the government and have been controlled by the government as long as they have,” Mncuchin told Fox Business Network Wednesday.
Investors have taken his comments to mean that the Treasury will no longer collect money from Fannie and Freddie, and that has the investment community excited. Stocks in both Fannie and Freddie soared over 45 percent since Mnuchin made his announcement, as investor believe he will privatize the firms.
Some hedge funds have been making this bet for years. William Ackman, manager of hedge fund Pershing Square, pumped $12 billion into Fannie May in 2014.
“Fannie and Freddie should be limited to the core business they were set up to do, which is to guarantee first mortgages on middle class housing for creditworthy borrowers, and that’s a safe business,” Ackman said in November. Ackman seems to have faith in both Trump and Mnuchin. “I couldn’t imagine a better person to negotiate with than someone who knows something about real estate,” Ackman said.
Mnuchin plans to reform and restructure Fannie and Freddie. “Let me just be clear, we will make sure that when they are restructured they are absolutely safe,” Mnuchin said Wednesday. The restructuring will make sure that the firms “don’t get taken over again.”
“We’ve got to get them out of government control,” Mnuchin concluded.
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