Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

April 22, 2014

Reiss on Hedge Funds’ GSE Strategy

By David Reiss

American Banker quoted me in Everything Lenders Need to Know About GSE Shareholders’ Lawsuits (behind a paywall, but available in full here). It reads in part,

A powerful group of shareholders is amplifying attacks on housing finance reform legislation as they await resolution of a major legal battle, attempting to slow momentum on the bill before it likely passes the Senate Banking Committee.

Several big hedge funds that stand to possibly win billions of dollars for their shares in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are leading the charge, both in federal court and in the court of public opinion.

New investors’ rights groups said to be backed by the funds have popped up in recent weeks attacking legislation by Sens. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, and Mike Crapo, the panel’s top Republican.

Their presence is yet another complicating factor in the tumult ahead of a scheduled April 29 vote by the committee, potentially hurting efforts to secure additional support for the measure.

“Now that different people have come out with their bills, it’s been laid bare that the people working on [government-sponsored enterprise] reform aren’t going to do major favors for the shareholders,” said Jeb Mason, a managing director at Cypress Group. “As a result, the shareholders have adjusted their strategy to muddy the waters – and, if they can, kill the Johnson-Crapo bill.”

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As part of their effort, investors have begun taking their concerns public through new tax-exempt groups in Washington. The investors argue they were on the receiving end of a rotten deal from the government, particularly those that bought the stocks before the enterprises were put into conservatorship.

“The hedge funds have this incredibly sophisticated, multi-pronged strategy – lawsuits, legislation, academics on the payroll, funding anonymous PR campaigns, offering to buy the companies. They’re coming at it from all angles,” said David Reiss, a professor at Brooklyn Law School.

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Given the size and complexity of the cases, it’s likely to take years before the matter is resolved entirely. Analysts have suggested that if both sides continue to push the issue, it could even rise up to the Supreme Court over the next several years.

“You’re talking about many-year or potentially, decades-long lawsuits,” said Reiss. “The stakes are humongous and the parties are incredibly sophisticated and well financed. The government parties’ incentives to settle are not the same as a private party – I could imagine them seeing this all the way through.”

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