REFinBlog

Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

June 6, 2017

GSE Investors Propose Reform Blueprint

By David Reiss

Moelis & Company, financial advisors to some of Fannie and Freddie investors including Paulson & Co. and Blackstone GSO Capital Partners, has release a Blueprint for Restoring Safety and Soundness to the GSEs. The blueprint is a version of a “recap and release” plan that greatly favors the interests of Fannie and Freddie’s private shareholders over the public interest. The blueprint contains the following elements:

1. Protects Taxpayers from Future Bailouts. This Blueprint protects taxpayers by restoring safety and soundness to two of the largest insurance companies in the United States, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This is achieved by (a) rebuilding a substantial amount of first-loss private capital, (b) imposing rigorous new risk and leverage-based capital standards, (c) facilitating the government’s exit from ownership in both companies, and (d) providing a mechanism to substantially reduce the government’s explicit backstop commitment facility over time.

2. Promotes Homeownership and Preserves the 30-Year Mortgage. This Blueprint ensures that adequate mortgage market liquidity is maintained, the GSE debt markets continue to function without interruption, and the affordable 30-year fixed-rate conventional mortgage remains widely accessible for every eligible American.

3. Repositions the GSEs as Single-Purpose Insurers. Given the substantial reforms implemented by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (“FHFA”) since 2008, the GSEs can now be repositioned and safely operated as single-purpose insurers, bearing mortgage credit risk in exchange for guarantee fees with limited retained investment portfolios beyond that necessary for securitization “inventory” and loan purchases.

4. Enables Rebuild of Equity Capital while Winding Down the Government Backstop. The Net Worth Sweep served the purpose of dramatically accelerating the payback of Treasury’s investment in both companies. The focus must now turn to protecting taxpayers by rebuilding Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s equity capital and winding down the government’s backstop.

5. Repays the Government in Full for its Investment during the Great Recession. Treasury has retained all funds received to date during the conservatorships. The government has recouped the entire $187.5 billion that it originally invested, plus an additional $78.3 billion in profit, for total proceeds of $265.8 billion. Treasury’s profits to date on its investment in the GSEs are five times greater than the combined profit on all other investments initiated by Treasury during the financial crisis.

6. Produces an Additional $75 to $100 Billion of Profits for Taxpayers. Treasury can realize an estimated $75 to $100 billion in additional cash profits by exercising its warrants for 79.9% of each company’s common stock and subsequently selling those shares through secondary offerings. This monetization process, which follows the proven path of Treasury’s AIG and Ally Bank (GMAC) stock dispositions, could bring total government profits to $150 to $175 billion, the largest single U.S. government financial investment return in history.

7. Implements Reform Under Existing Authority. This Blueprint articulates a feasible path to achieving the Administration’s GSE reform objectives with the least amount of execution risk. It can be fully implemented during the current presidential term by FHFA in collaboration with Treasury utilizing their existing legal authorities. Congress could build on these reforms to develop an integrated national housing finance policy that accounts for the Federal Housing Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Rural Housing Service, and emphasizes (i) affordable housing, (ii) safety and soundness, and (iii) universal and fair access to mortgage credit for all Americans. (1)

As can be seen from the last paragraph, GSE investors are trying to use the logjam in the Capitol to their own advantage. They are arguing that because Congress has not been able to get real reform bill passed, it makes sense to implement a reform plan administratively. There is nothing wrong with such an approach, but this plan would benefit investors more than the public.

My takeaway from this blueprint is that the longer Fannie and Freddie remain in limbo, the more likely it is that special interests will win the day and the public interest will fall by the wayside.

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Tuesday’s Regulatory & Legislative Roundup

By Jamila Moore

 

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June 5, 2017

Assessing The Ability-to-Repay and Qualified Mortgage Rule

By David Reiss

photo by Alan Levine

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has issued a Request for Information Regarding Ability-to-Repay/Qualified Mortgage Rule Assessment. Dodd-Frank

requires the Bureau to conduct an assessment of each significant rule or order adopted by the Bureau under Federal consumer financial law. The Bureau must publish a report of the assessment not later than five years after the effective date of such rule or order. The assessment must address, among other relevant factors, the rule’s effectiveness in meeting the purposes and objectives of title X of the Dodd Frank Act and the specific goals stated by the Bureau. The assessment also must reflect available evidence and any data that the Bureau reasonably may collect. Before publishing a report of its assessment, the Bureau must invite public comment on recommendations for modifying, expanding, or eliminating the significant rule or order. (82 F.R. 25247)

The Bureau invites the public to submit the following:

  1. Comments on the feasibility and effectiveness of the assessment plan, the objectives of the ATR/QM Rule that the Bureau intends to emphasize in the assessment, and the outcomes, metrics, baselines, and analytical methods for assessing the effectiveness of the rule as described in part IV above;
  2. Data and other factual information that may be useful for executing the Bureau’s assessment plan, as described in part IV above;
  3. Recommendations to improve the assessment plan, as well as data, other factual information, and sources of data that would be useful and available to execute any recommended improvements to the assessment plan;
  4. Data and other factual information about the benefits and costs of the ATR/ QM Rule for consumers, creditors, and other stakeholders in the mortgage industry; and about the impacts of the rule on transparency, efficiency, access, and innovation in the mortgage market;
  5. Data and other factual information about the rule’s effectiveness in meeting the purposes and objectives of Title X of the Dodd-Frank Act (section 1021), which are listed in part IV above;
  6. Recommendations for modifying, expanding, or eliminating the ATR/QM Rule. (82 F.R. 25250)

As with the RESPA Assessment, this ATR/QM Assessment provides “consumers and their advocates, housing counselors, mortgage creditors and other industry representatives, industry analysts, and other interested persons” with the opportunity to help shape how the ATR/QM Rule should work going forward. (Id.)

Comments must be received on or before July 31, 2017.

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Monday’s Adjudication Roundup

By Jamila Moore

  • Three men in the San Francisco Bay were convicted by a California federal court. The three men participated in a three year bid rigging scheme that took place at foreclosure auctions. The three men attempted to suppress evidence by the government regarding their unauthorized use of the hidden microphones without a proper warrant.
  • Connecticut residents are outraged at their home insurance companies. They claim companies such as AIG, Allstate, and State Farm, refused, in bad-faith, to approve their insurance claims. The state’s homeowners initially filed insurance claims with various insurance companies to mitigate the damage to the foundations in their home due to the use of defective concrete.
  • A few investors of mortgage backed securities are suing HSBC Bank for their 3 billion dollar loss during the financial crisis in the early 2000s. The investors claim a breach of duty by the bank regarding sifting through dud mortgages.

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June 2, 2017

Obamas Buy Their Rental

By David Reiss

2011 portrait by Pete Souza of the Obama family

Realtor.com quoted me in Former President Obama Finally Buys the DC Home He’s Renting: 6 Smart Reasons Why. It reads, in part,

Former President Barack Obama has decided that buying beats renting. The former first family have surprised many by purchasing the Washington, DC, house they’ve been leasing and living in since January, coughing up $8.1 million to call the place their own.

After vacating the White House, the Obamas had moved into the 6,441-square-foot, nine-bedroom, 8.5-bath mansion, located at 2446 Belmont Road NW in the tony neighborhood of Kalorama. The neighborhood has since become the place for the new political elite, with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump moving into a luxe rental a couple of blocks away, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson snapping up a $5.6 million Colonial Revival down the street.

The reason the Obamas decided to stick around DC in the first place was so their younger daughter, Sasha, then a freshman at posh Sidwell Friends, could finish up high school there. With only three years to go, renting seemed to make sense so that the Obamas could easily pick up and move once she’s done.

But apparently, there’s been a big change of heart. Why?

On its surface, their decision seems a bit puzzling, given Sasha now has only twoand-a-half years to go. In real estate, the general rule is that it makes sense to buy a home only if you plan to stay put for five years, because this allows time for your house to appreciate, which helps you recoup hefty closing costs.

“People who sell after a year or two of ownership will often find that they have lost money on their purchase,” explains David Reiss, research director at the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship at Brooklyn Law School.

Nonetheless, real estate agents and other experts we spoke to say there could be plenty of reasons it’s smarter for the Obamas to buy rather than rent, even for this short span of time. Here are a few possibilities to ponder.

Reason No. 1: They’re making a commitment to DC

As presidential spokesman Kevin Lewis explained in a statement, “Given that President and Mrs. Obama will be in Washington for at least another two and a half years, it made sense for them to buy a home rather than continuing to rent property.”

Granted, you can read a whole lot into that “at least” if you want. After all, as Atlanta Realtor® Bruce Ailion explains, “Many buyers think they will only be in a property for two to three years and end up living there three to seven years. That is common.”

And it might be an indicator that our former commander in chief isn’t ready to shed the political life quite yet.

“Perhaps they want to keep a foothold in Washington, DC, for other reasons with regard to political advocacy and involvement,” says Florida Realtor Cara Ameer.

Reason No. 2: In certain markets, 2.5 years is long enough to make a profit

While 2.5 years might not be long enough to profit on a home in general, that rule varies widely by neighborhood, based on rent levels, home prices—and how quickly both are going up. And this is one hot neighborhood.

It isn’t known exactly what the Obamas were paying in monthly rent, but estimates hover at around $22,000. It’s entirely possible that the former first couple did the math and determined that buying made far more financial sense, and that mortgage payments would be less of a monthly nut. (To find out what’s best for you, you can crunch the numbers in an online rent vs. buy calculator.)

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Reason No. 5: This home will sell for a premium—he’s a former president, after all!

“It was always a little perplexing why the Obamas would ever rent if they planned to stay for anything longer than a year,” contends Washington, DC, real estate agent Rachel Valentino.

Her reason: “While they’re buying at market value, they can eventually financially benefit on the back end, where a buyer will pay significantly more for the celebrity factor. We aren’t Southern California, where every house has that star appeal. So, I can only imagine what a buyer will eventually pay to own a piece of history.”

Reason No. 6: Profits aren’t everything

“One lesson we can draw from this story is that buying a home should not always be seen as a financial transaction,” says Reiss. “Sometimes we buy a home because it’s best for our family at a particular time. Sometimes we buy a home because we fall in love with it. And sometimes those are the best reasons of all to buy a home, profits be damned.”

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Friday’s Government Reports Roundup

By Jamila Moore

  • The United States Housing and Urban Development Agency(HUD) recently published a report proposing adjustments to the method of calculation of fair market value rents. Additionally, HUD seeks the public’s input on the matter before determining a final decision.
  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a report regarding elders and the effect of reverse mortgages. The CFPB has known about the reverse mortgage problems; however, the complaints from those age 62 in above is 10% higher than their younger counterparts. The chief complaints presented by elders are “difficulty in changing the loan terms”  and “problems communicating with loan servicers.”
  • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) believes the state of Louisiana is in violation of federal law. The FTC alleges Louisiana’s Real Estate Appraisal Board’s regulatory practices violate federal antitrust laws. The Louisiana Real Estate Appraisal Board requires strict adherence of a “‘customary and reasonable’ appraisal fee schedule” which stifles competition.

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June 2, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments