After President-elect Donald Trump announced that he selected Steve Mnuchin, a former executive at Goldman Sachs and former chairman of OneWest Bank, to lead the Department of the Treasury, Mnuchin began making the media rounds with Wilbur Ross, Trump’s choice to lead the Department of Commerce.
One of Mnuchin and Ross’ first stops was with Fox Business, and during an interview with Maria Bartiromo, Mnuchin dropped a bombshell about the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Rather than be wound down, as some including another rumored choice to lead the Treasury, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, advocate for, Mnuchin said the government-sponsored enterprises will be taken out of “government ownership,” restructured, and privatized.
Below is a transcript of Mnuchin and Ross’ conversation with Bartiromo, captured by the Wall Street Journal’s Nick Timiraos:
Fannie and Freddie shares are up 30% in the hours after Treasury secretary-designee Steven Mnuchin tells FBN he wants the GSEs privatized pic.twitter.com/ET27LrCCEn
— Nick Timiraos (@NickTimiraos) November 30, 2016
During the interview, Ross says that government is “not the right way to allocate capital,” and says that Fannie and Freddie are not “exactly role models” due to the two institutions being at the forefront of government influence after the financial crisis.
Bartiromo then asks if Fannie and Freddie should be privatized. “Absolutely,” Mnuchin answers.
“We’ve got to get Fannie and Freddie out of government ownership. It makes no sense that these are owned by the government and have been controlled by the government for as long as they have,” Mnuchin said.
“In many cases, this displaces private lending in the mortgage markets, and we need these entities that will be safe,” Mnuchin continues. “So let me be clear, we’ll make sure that when they’re restructured, they’ll be safer and they don’t get taken over again but we’ve got to get them out of government control.”
Bartiromo asks why the government hasn’t already returned Fannie and Freddie to their previously private status, to which Mnuchin says the Obama administration did not make privatization or GSE reform a priority.
“If it had been a priority, it would have,” Mnuchin says.
Mnuchin then lays out just how important returning the GSEs to private control is and how quickly they Trump administration plans to do it.
“Our administration, it’s right up there in the top 10 list of things we’re going to get done,” Mnuchin says. “And we’ll get it done reasonably fast.”
As Mnuchin notes, releasing the GSEs would be a seismic change in direction from how the Obama administration treated Fannie and Freddie.
On many occasions, representatives from the Obama administration said that there were no plans to release the GSEs.
If the government were to release the GSEs back into private hands, it would be an absolute boon for the hedge funds that bought Fannie and Freddie stock when it was trading at pennies, betting that privatization may happen again in the future.
As it stands now, the government holds all of the senior stock in the GSEs, but the other GSE stockholders, many of whom sued the government for sweeping all the GSEs’ profits into the Treasury Department’s coffers, could stand to make a fortune as well.
As Timiraos notes in his tweet, Fannie and Freddie's stock shot up on the news of the day, both up more than 30% as of 12:30 pm Eastern.
The times, they are a changing.