Friday, November 9, 2007

Fannie And Freddie Under Fire

It was announced earlier this week that New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in relation to accusations that the two mortgage giants had purchased loans based on inflated appraisals from Washington Mutual. According to Cuomo, WaMu pressured eAppraiseIT, an appraisal company, to inflate home values on thousands of loans which were later sold to Fannie and Freddie. Freddie Mac replied immediately saying it will cooperate with investigators. WaMu and eAppraseIT said they did not breach regulations. WaMu’s stock price dropped 17% on the news, to the lowest level in 20 years.

James Lockhart, director of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO), the GSEs’ regulator, however, expressed disappointment with the subpoenas. In a letter to Cuomo, he said that Fannie and Freddie “have no economic incentive to knowingly purchase or guarantee mortgages with inflated appraisals”, and “you and your staff may not fully understand the differences between the mortgage-backed securities issued by the GSEs and those issued by other entities”. I can feel the rage.

Fannie and Freddie have operating rules in place, which say that if the loans they purchase are linked to inflated appraisals, the lender has to buy them back. Too bad for WaMu, it’s already suffering losses from failed subprime loans, so if it has to repurchase all the mortgages it sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, its financial situation could deteriorate further. For the time being, both companies are continuing to purchase WaMu mortgages.

No comments: