Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

September 1, 2015

Credit Risk Transfer Deals

By David Reiss

A Syn

The Federal Housing Finance Agency released an Overview of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Credit Risk Transfer Transactions. It opens,

In 2012, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) initiated a strategic plan to develop a program of credit risk transfer intended to reduce Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s (the Enterprises’) overall risk and, therefore, the risk they pose to taxpayers. In just three years, the Enterprises have made significant progress in developing a market for credit risk transfer securities, evidenced by the fact that they have already transferred significant credit risk on loans with over $667 billion of unpaid principal balance (UPB).

Credit risk transfer is now a regular part of the Enterprises’ business. The Enterprises are currently transferring a significant amount of the credit risk on almost 90% of the loans that account for the vast majority of their underlying credit risk. These loans constitute about half of all Enterprise loan acquisitions. Going forward, FHFA will continue to encourage the Enterprises to engage in large volumes of meaningful credit risk transfer through specific goals in the annual conservatorship scorecard and by working closely with Enterprise staff to develop and evaluate credit risk transfer structures. (2)

This is indeed good news for taxpayers and should reduce their exposure to future losses at Fannie and Freddie. There is still a lot of work to do, though, to get that risk level as low as possible. The report notes that these transactions have not yet been done for adjustable-rate mortgages or 15 year mortgages. Most importantly, the report cautions that

Because the programs have not been implemented through an entire housing price cycle, it is too soon to say whether the credit risk transfer transactions currently ongoing will make economic sense in all stages of the cycle. Specifically, we cannot know the extent to which investors will continue to participate through a housing downturn. Additionally, the investor base and pricing for these transactions could be affected by a higher interest rate environment in which other fixed-income securities may be more attractive alternatives. (22)

Taxpayers are exposed to many heightened risks during Fannie and Freddie’s conservatorship, such as operational risk. These risk transfer transactions are thus particularly important while the two companies linger on in that state.

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