Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

June 9, 2014

G-Fee Entreaty

By David Reiss

The FHFA has issued a Request for Input about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Guarantee Fees. The Request both provides a good explanation of g-fees and poses important questions about their appropriate role in the functioning of the housing finance system. The Request opens,

On December 9, 2013, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced proposed increases to guarantee fees (g-fees) that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) charge lenders. The Enterprises receive these fees in return for providing a credit guarantee to ensure the timely payment of principal and interest to investors in Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS) if the borrower fails to pay. The MBS, in turn, are backed by mortgages that lenders sell to the Enterprises.

 The proposed changes included an across-the-board 10 basis point increase, an adjustment of up-front fees charged to borrowers in different risk categories and elimination of the 25 basis point Adverse Market Charge for all but four states. On January 8, 2014, Director Melvin L. Watt suspended implementation of these changes pending further review. (1)

The Request asks for responses to 12 questions. The most important, as far as I am concerned, is the first: “Are there factors other than those described in section III – expected losses, unexpected losses, and general and administrative expenses that FHFA and the Enterprises should consider in setting g-fees? What goals should FHFA further in setting g-fees?” (7)

Setting the g-fee has far-reaching consequences not just for the financial health of the two companies, but also for the health of the overall housing market and the mortgage industry. It will also have predictable effects on the litigation over the conservatorships of the two companies. For instance, a high g-fee will make the two companies appear to be more valuable than a low one. The size of the g-fee may also impact the scope of federal affordable housing initiatives.

While this Request for Input is pretty technical (particularly the parts of it that I didn’t blog about), it touches on some of the most fundamental aspects of our system of housing finance. As such, it invites responses from more than just industry insiders. Input is due by August 4th.

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