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Freddie Mac’s former CEO is heading back to Harvard

Layton will be a senior fellow focused on housing finance reform at "critically important" juncture

After four years as CEO of Freddie Mac, Donald Layton is heading back to Harvard University, where he was a student in the 1970s.

Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies said on Monday that Layton will be a senior fellow focused on housing finance reform. In the same announcement, Harvard said Michael Stegman, a top advisor on housing policy for the Obama administration, will serve as a senior fellow with the same focus.

The appointment of the two men comes at a momentous time for the nation’s housing finance system, said Chris Herbert, the Joint Center’s managing director. The Trump administration says it’s on the verge of releasing its plan for administrative and legislative reforms of housing policy. Meanwhile, the newly appointed FHFA Director Mark Calabria has indicated that he intends to take steps to release Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from conservatorship as soon as practicable.

“Skeptics of the prospect for significant change in the near-term can rightly point to the failure of the political system to tackle this issue over the past decade as the best predictor of a continued stalemate,” Herbert said. “But if nothing else, actions by the Trump administration have already stirred a renewed discussion of policy options that may well shape the approaches ultimately adopted. Through our fellows, the Center intends to contribute to this critically important debate.”

Layton, who led the second-largest mortgage financier since 2012, graduated from Harvard Business School in 1974 after getting two degrees in economics from M.I.T. in 1972. Stegman received degrees in city and regional planning from the University of Pennsylvania in the 1960s. He held positions at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Treasury before becoming a senior policy advisor for housing in the Obama White House.

Freddie Mac said in March that Layton would retire on July 1, the same day Harvard made the announcement about the new fellows. David Brickman, who has been Freddie Mac’s president for the past year, took over the CEO role from Layton. 

Layton “has spent the last seven years of his 40-year career in the financial services industry, leading Freddie Mac through a period of fundamental reform and so has a unique and authoritative understanding about the operations of these enterprises and how different policy proposals could play out in practice,” Herbert said. 

Stegman’s role may include dissecting the various housing policies that come up as Democrats pick their nominee for the 2020 election, Herbert said.

“Given Mike’s long history more broadly in U.S. housing policy, he will also use his fellowship to comment on important housing policy discussions being spurred in part by proposals by Democratic candidates for president,” Herbert said.

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