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Investments

Should Fannie and Freddie be placed in receivership?

Maybe there is a better idea

February 17, 2014
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In response to shareholder lawsuits against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, The New York Times columnist Gretchen Morgenson is making the argument that investors in the government-sponsored enterprises are being robbed of their profits.

Right now, on Zero Hedge, prolific blogger Christopher Whalen is making two solid arguments — one, there are no real profits to speak of, and two, Fannie and Freddie should have been placed into receivership back in the day.

Indeed, Whalen states the opinion that what we have now is roughly somewhere in between:

"Either liquidate under receivership, or conserve for debt and equity claimants under conservatorship. Treasury did half and half, skimming the earnings but keeping the liabilities off the US balance sheet."

Another interesting idea, and I wonder if it is being considered at all in the echelons of Washington, D.C., is whether or not Fannie and Freddie could be privatized.

In the early '70s, Sallie Mae spent its days as a government-sponsored enterprise, and became private in the late '90s. Keeping the troubles unique to Sallie Mae aside, in theory the privatization solution could work for Fannie and Freddie.

In this scenario, the ability of Fannie and Freddie to operate effectively on the capital markets would not be adversely impacted and shareholders could begin to see profits once more.

However, leveraging political willpower through housing would have to take a backseat, and no one is naïve enough to think that would happen today.

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