Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

June 24, 2013

Investor HERA-sy

By David Reiss

As I have previously noted, Fannie and Freddie investors have filed a complaint, Washington Federal et al. v. U.S.A., No. 1:13-cv-00385-MMS (June 10, 2013), alleging that the federal government “expropriated [Fannie and Freddie’s] common and preferred shareholders’ rights and the value of their equity in the Companies without due process, and without just compensations, thereby constituting an impermissible exaction and/or taking in violation of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.” (8)

Personally, I think that there is a lot of nonsense in the complaint, both in terms of its factual description of the events that led up to the placement of Fannie and Freddie in conservatorship as well as its interpretation of those events.  But I did find its analysis interesting as to whether the government complied with HERA’s requirements for placing the two companies in conservatorship.  Not compelling, just interesting.

As the complaint notes, the federal government had a number of grounds for appointing a conservator. It takes the position that none of those grounds were met. This seems facially wrong.

One of the grounds is whether Fannie or Freddie “incurred, or became likely to incur, losses that would deplete substantially all of its capital with no reasonable prospect of becoming adequately capitalized.” (31) The complaint alleges that the two companies had not incurred such losses at the time that they were placed in conservatorship. (38-39) But it does not even argue that the two companies never “became likely to incur” such losses prior to their placement in conservatorship. Seems hard, particularly with the benefit of hindsight, to take the position that they were not “likely” to incur such losses. And if the plaintiffs can’t make that case, they lose.

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