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Investment firm Deutsche Bank ($48.45 1.79%) is making predictions for 2013. A popular assumption is that the FHFA will eventually get a new acting director.
The current acting director, Ed DeMarco, is HousingWire's 2012 Person of the Year, so we'll definitely be sad to see him go. However, DeMarco isn't allowing for principal reductions at the government-sponsored enterprises, arguing it is prohibitively expensive and would not result in the maximum benefit to the taxpayers. Therefore, the subject of principal forgiveness is one likely to be debated soon after a new acting director named, which the bank predicts may come "no later that the second quarter 2013."
"DeMarco’s successor may reopen the principal forgiveness discussion, significantly increasing the probability of those modifications in agency MBS," write the analysts.
And they believe his most likely successor will come from academic circles.
The first named candidate is Susan Wachter, a professor of real estate and finance at the University of Pennsylvania.
"In terms of policy, Wachter has publicly supported at least the same kind of principal forbearance that DeMarco and the FHFA have supported. In an interview with Fortune in August, she stated, “What’s obscured by this debate is we already have a piece of the puzzle and we know that principal reduction through forbearance is working.” It’s unclear whether Wachter supports principal forgiveness."
Deutsche Bank also names Michael Barr, a law professor at the University of Michigan and the assistant Treasury secretary for financial institutions from 2009–2010.
"It appears that Barr favors some forms of principal forgiveness. He was quoted earlier this year as saying borrowers with “significantly high levels” of negative equity defaulted more frequently than borrowers with low levels of negative equity and that “if you aren’t able to stabilize the housing market, taxpayers are further at risk. So there are benefits to taxpayers in the medium term in taking steps that in the short-term cost taxpayers some funds."
Another candidate is Katherine Porter, a professor of law at the University of California – Irvine, and the state's independent monitor of banks in the $25 billion robosigning settlement.
"In her oversight of the settlement Porter has advocated for principal modifications over other forms of debt forgiveness such as short sales. According to Porter, short sales should be reserved for borrowers who cannot afford to stay in their home even with a lower principal balance on their mortgage.
"Given her views on the application of the robo-signing settlement, it is fair to assume that she would also support some type of principal modification program."
Deutsche Bank predicts that outside of academia, candidates include Ted Tozer, president of Ginnie Mae and Rob Ryan, the acting commissioner of the FHA.