Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

May 1, 2014

Stressing out on Fannie and Freddie

By David Reiss

The Federal Housing Finance Agency issued Projections of the Enterprises’ Financial Performance (Stress Tests) (Apr. 30, 2014). This is a pretty technical, but important, document. The Background section provides some needed context:

This report provides updated information on possible ranges of future financial results of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the “Enterprises”) under specified scenarios, using consistent economic conditions for both Enterprises.

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. . . the Dodd-Frank Act requires certain financial companies with total consolidated assets of more than $10 billion, and which are regulated by a primary Federal financial regulatory agency, to conduct annual stress tests to determine whether the companies have the capital necessary to absorb losses as a result of adverse economic conditions. This year is the initial implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act Stress Tests.

In addition to stress tests required per the Dodd-Frank Act, this year as in previous years, FHFA worked with the Enterprises to develop forward-looking financial projections across three possible house price paths (the “FHFA scenarios”). The Enterprises were required to conduct the FHFA scenarios as they have in the past, in conjunction with the initial implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act Stress Tests.

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The projections reported here are not expected outcomes. They are modeled projections in response to “what if” exercises based on assumptions about Enterprise operations, loan performance, macroeconomic and financial market conditions, and house prices. The projections do not define the full range of possible outcomes. Actual outcomes may be very different. (4, emphasis in the original)

 The stress test results are as follows:

Dodd-Frank Act Stress Tests Severely Adverse Scenario

  • As of September 30, 2013, the Enterprises have drawn $187.5 billion from the U.S. Treasury under the terms of the Senior Preferred Stock Purchase Agreements (the “PSPAs”).
  • The combined remaining funding commitment under the PSPAs as of September 30, 2013 was $258.1 billion.
  • In the Severely Adverse scenario, incremental Treasury Draws range between $84.4 billion and $190.0 billion depending on the treatment of deferred tax assets.
  • The remaining funding commitment under the PSPAs ranges between $173.7 billion and $68.0 billion. (3)

FHFA Scenarios

  • In the FHFA scenarios, cumulative, combined Treasury draws at the end of 2015 remain unchanged at $187.5 billion as neither Enterprise requires additional Treasury draws in any of the three scenarios.
  • The combined remaining commitment under the PSPAs is unchanged at $258.1 billion.
  • In the three scenarios the Enterprises pay additional senior preferred dividends to the US Treasury ranging between $54.0 billion to $36.3 billion. (3)

There are a number of important points to keep in mind when reviewing this report. First, it addresses just four scenarios out of the the multitude of possible ones. But hopefully the Severely Adverse Scenario gives us a sense of the outer limits of what a crisis could do to the Enterprises and the taxpayers who backstop them.

Second, the report is another corrective to arguments that the federal government’s bailout of the Enterprises can be measured by the amount of money that they actually advanced to the two companies, as opposed to a measure that also accounts for the additional amount that the federal government is committed to provide them if their financial situation takes a turn for the worse.

Finally, as I have noted before, there is an important political battle for control of the narrative of the bailout of the Enterprises. The only narrative during the crisis itself was that the federal government bailed out the two companies because they were insolvent. Revisionist histories, put forward in the main by private shareholders of the two Enterprises, challenge that narrative. The shareholders put forth another version of history: the federal government effectively stole  solvent, viable Fannie and Freddie from them. It will be important for objective third parties to document the truth about this in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. From my understanding of the facts, however, it is clear that the two companies were as good as dead when the federal government put them into conservatorship in 2008 and started advancing them tens of billions of dollars year after year until their fortunes turned around in 2012.

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