Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

January 23, 2014

U.S. Dismissive of Frannie Suits

By David Reiss

The Federal Housing Finance Agency filed its motion to dismiss all the claims in Perry Capital v. Lew, D.D.C., No. 13-cv-01025, 1/17/14. I blogged about this case (and similar cases) when they were filed last summer. It is quite interesting to read the government’s side of the story now. Today’s post focuses on the federal government’s alternative narrative. Where the private investors describe an opportunistic and abusive government in their complaints, the FHFA’s brief describes the government as a white knight who rode in to save the day at the depth of the financial crisis:

The national crisis having eased, Plaintiffs now ask the Court to re-write the agreements that FHFA, on behalf of the Enterprises, and Treasury executed to stabilize the Enterprises and the national economy, pursuant to express congressional authority. Plaintiffs want to cherry-pick those aspects of the agreements that they like—namely, the unprecedented financial support from Treasury at a time when the Enterprises required billions of dollars in capital—and discard the parts they do not like—namely, the Third Amended PSPAs—now that over one hundred billion dollars of federal taxpayer capital infusions and commitments have allowed the Enterprises to remain in business and produce positive earnings, rather than being placed into mandatory receivership and then liquidation. Plaintiffs’ attempt to reward themselves, at the expense of federal taxpayers who risked and continue to risk billions of dollars to save the Enterprises from receivership and liquidation, directly contravenes the relevant statutory authorities as implemented by the unambiguous language of the PSPAs.

Plaintiffs’ charges of common law and APA violations have it exactly backwards: FHFA, on behalf of the Enterprises, has acted at all times consistent with the Enterprises’ contractual obligations and FHFA’s powers as Conservator and statutory successor to all rights of the Enterprises and their stockholders. The shareholder-Plaintiffs, on the other hand, are attempting through these cases to convince this Court, during the conservatorships, to give shareholders financial value that they are not owed under the terms of their stock certificates or statutes, and to ignore the rights of the Enterprises’ senior preferred stockholder, the U.S. Treasury. By doing so, Plaintiffs seek not only to undermine the purposes of conservatorship, but also the very statutory mission of the Enterprises in which they chose to invest. (4-5)

While I think that the investors raise some serious legal issues for the court to decide, the federal government’s narrative of the financial crisis jibes a whole lot more with my own than does the investors’. I argued last summer that the side that wins control of the narrative will have an advantage in the battle over the legal issues. I would say that the federal government has won this first round.

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