Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

September 3, 2013

Fannie and Freddie’s Unreported Billions of Losses

By David Reiss

The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s Inspector General has warned FHFA Acting Director DeMarco that the FHFA has allowed Fannie and Freddie to defer acknowledgment of billions of dollars of losses relating to seriously delinquent singe-family residential mortgage loans for far too long.

The Office of the IG recommends that estimates of these losses be reported immediately, on an ongoing basis. There are all sorts of obvious good reasons to do this, including the fact that “[c]lassification of loans according to risk characteristics is a critical factor considered by financial regulators to evaluate a financial institution’s safety and soundness”  and that it accords with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. (1)

Fannie and Freddie’s recent reports of billions of dollars of profits have caused a scrum to form around the two companies, as investors in preferred shares seek to get a slice of those profits through a series of lawsuits (here, here, here and here for example), as low-income advocates seek to fund the Housing Trust Fund through a lawsuit (here) and as some politicians forget the risks that these two companies present to the American taxpayer and seek to reanimate the two companies.

In a perfect world, we would ask what kind of residential housing finance infrastructure we want to implement for the next fifty years or so and what should happen to Fannie and Freddie should have little to nothing to do with their current profits or losses. But the political reality is that it does. With that as a given, we should at least have an honest assessment of their balance sheets. But the FHFA is keeping us in the dark. It needs to turn the lights on so that we can understand the true magnitude of these unreported losses so that the debate about Fannie and Freddie can be held with as much accurate information as possible.

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