Mnuchin in Talks With Fannie-Freddie Overseer on Rushed Redo
(Bloomberg) -- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he’s made no decision on actions that might be taken at the end of the Trump administration to free Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from U.S. control, while raising the possibility that the companies could be released before they are fully capitalized.
Mnuchin, speaking at a Wednesday House hearing, said he has had discussions about possible moves with Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mark Calabria, the companies’ regulator. But Mnuchin said he hasn’t made up his mind on whether to do anything, while reiterating that he opposes ending Fannie and Freddie’s federal conservatorships until they have “significant” capital buffers to protect against losses.
“Let me just be clear,” Mnuchin said in testimony before the House Financial Services Committee. “Despite the fact that the director and I are having conversations, we’ve made no decisions at Treasury whatsoever yet. We are contemplating.”
Fannie fell 7.4% to $2.52 in New York trading Wednesday, while Freddie slid 8.3% to $2.37. The companies have had their biggest two-day drop since March.
Fannie and Freddie have been in the government’s grip since the 2008 financial crisis, when the companies piled up steep losses amid the housing crash and needed a taxpayer rescue. They’ve since become profitable again and have started retaining earnings to build up their capital cushions. Still, Fannie and Freddie are far short of the roughly $280 billion that Calabria has demanded they have as fully private companies.
During the House hearing, Mnuchin said the companies could be released from U.S. control before reaching the capital requirement under a consent decree. In such a scenario, the companies would technically exit conservatorship but still have restrictions on some business activities.
“There could be a scenario where at some point between basically the zero capital they have and the full capital requirement, there would be a consent order,” Mnuchin said. “They would be released subject to a consent order.”
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