The Federal Housing Finance Agency
) is an independent federal agency created as the successor regulatory agency resulting from the statutory merger of the Federal Housing Finance Board
The Federal Housing Finance Board was an independent agency of the United States government established in 1989 in the aftermath of the savings and loan crisis to take over oversight of the Federal Home Loan Banks , and was superseded by the Federal Housing Finance Agency in 2008.The FHFB...
(FHFB), the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight
The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight was an agency within the Department of Housing and Urban Development. It was charged with ensuring the capital adequacy and financial safety and soundness of two government sponsored enterprises—the Federal National Mortgage Association and the...
(OFHEO), and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development government-sponsored enterprise mission team, absorbing the powers and regulatory authority of both entities, with expanded legal and regulatory authority, including the ability to place government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) into receivership
In law, receivership is the situation in which an institution or enterprise is being held by a receiver, a person "placed in the custodial responsibility for the property of others, including tangible and intangible assets and rights." The receivership remedy is an equitable remedy that emerged in...
Conservatorship is a legal concept in the United States of America, where an entity or organization is subjected to the legal control of an external entity or organization, known as a conservator. Conservatorship is established either by court order or via a statutory or regulatory authority...
The enabling law establishing the FHFA is the Federal Housing Finance Regulatory Reform Act of 2008, which is Division A of the larger Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008
The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 designed primarily to address the subprime mortgage crisis. It authorized the Federal Housing Administration to guarantee up to $300 billion in new 30-year fixed rate mortgages for subprime borrowers if lenders write-down principal loan balances to 90...
, Public Law 110-289, signed on July 30, 2008 by President George W. Bush. One year after the law was signed, the OFHEO and the FHFB shall go out of existence. All existing regulations, orders and decisions of OFHEO and the Finance Board remain in effect until modified or superseded.
On the day of the law's signing, former Director James Lockhart stated:
FHFA director Lockhart transmitted a "notice of establishment," for publication in the Federal Register on September 4, 2008. The notice formally announced the agency's existence and authority to act.
Conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
On September 7, 2008, FHFA director Lockhart announced he had put Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac under the conservatorship of the FHFA. The action is "one of the most sweeping government interventions in private financial markets in decades".
U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, appearing at the same press conference, stated that placing the two GSEs into conservatorship was a decision he fully supported, and said that he advised "that conservatorship was the only form in which I would commit taxpayer money to the GSEs." He further said that "I attribute the need for today's action primarily to the inherent conflict and flawed business model embedded in the GSE structure, and to the ongoing housing correction."
In the announcement, Mr. Lockhart indicated the following items in the plan of action for the conservatorship:
- On September 8, 2008, the first day of the conservatorship, business will be conducted normally, with stronger backing for the holders of Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS), senior debt and subordinated debt.
- The Enterprises will be allowed to grow their guarantee MBS books without limits and continue to purchase replacement securities for their portfolios, about $20 billion per month, without capital constraints.
- As the conservator, the FHFA will assume the power of the Board and management.
- The present CEOs have been dismissed, but will stay on to help with the transition.
- Appointed as CEOs are Herb Allison, for Fannie Mae and David M. Moffett
David McKenzie Moffett is an American businessman and was formerly the CEO of Freddie Mac. He was previously an executive with U.S. Bancorp. He also served as senior advisor to the Carlyle Group, and has been a director at eBay since July 2007...
for Freddie Mac. Allison is former Vice Chairman of Merrill Lynch
Merrill Lynch is the wealth management division of Bank of America. With over 15,000 financial advisors and $2.2 trillion in client assets it is the world's largest brokerage. Formerly known as Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc., prior to 2009 the firm was publicly owned and traded on the New York...
and for the last eight years chairman of TIAA-CREF
Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association – College Retirement Equities Fund is a Fortune 100 financial services organization that is the leading retirement provider for people who work in the academic, research, medical and cultural fields...
. Moffett is the former Vice Chairman and CFO of US Bancorp. Their compensation will be significantly lower than the outgoing CEOs. They will be joined by equally strong non-executive chairmen.
- Other management action will be very limited. The new CEOs agreed it is important to work with the current management teams and employees to encourage them to stay and to continue to make important improvements to the Enterprises.
- To conserve over $2 billion annually in capital the common stock and preferred stock dividends will be eliminated, but the common and all preferred stocks will continue to remain outstanding. Subordinated debt interest and principal payments will continue to be made.
- All political activities, including all lobbying, will be halted immediately. Charitable activities will be reviewed.
- There will be financing and investing relationship with the U.S. Treasury via three different financing facilities, to provide critically needed support to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and the liquidity of the mortgage market. One the three facilities is a secured liquidity facility which will be not only for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and also for the 12 Federal Home Loan Banks that FHFA also regulates.
Suits against financial institutions
The FHFA in 2011 filed suit first against UBS then against 17 other financial institutions accusing them of misrepresenting about $200 billion in mortgages sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The suits, some of which name individual defendants, allege a variety of violations of federal securities law and common law and paint "a damning portrait of the excesses of the housing bubble." The suits seek a variety of damages and civil penalties.