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Calabria: No nonbank is too big to fail

FHFA director says impact of coronavirus on nonbanks is limited, so far

Over the weekend, David Stevens, the former head of the Federal Housing Administration and CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association, wrote that the mortgage industry was “standing on the precipice” of widespread havoc due to a potential deluge of forbearance requests from borrowers.

Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mark Calabria, meanwhile, told HousingWire Tuesday that he does not believe the industry is facing the calamity that Stevens and others are predicting, especially on the nonbank side.

“From looking at the financials, we’re not seeing any evidence that the stress in the nonbank side is systemic,” Calabria said in an interview. “What we’re seeing is a small minority of firms are experiencing stress, but the entire industry is not.”

According to Calabria, the number of forbearance requests at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are under 2% of the total portfolio, so far.

And according to Calabria, it’s because of the limited impact thus far that he doesn’t expect any nonbanks to shut down during this crisis. Rather, Calabria believes that some nonbanks should be selling off some of their assets to raise money so they can continue operating as is.

“We’re not at this point where we’re necessarily expecting anyone to fail,” Calabria said. “So, some of this really is a matter of people just not wanting to take a markdown price for their assets to raise liquidity. But we’re seeing players do that, which is appropriate.”

But if a nonbank does find itself on the “precipice,” the company shouldn’t expect the FHFA to come to their rescue.

“While I cannot speak for others, I certainly don’t consider any of these firms to be too big to fail,” Calabria said, when asked if the government would save a failing nonbank during this crisis.

Beyond that, Calabria said that the expectation that forbearance will be widespread is incorrect.

“Nobody that we’re talking to is seeing 25%, 30%, 40%, 50% take out (in forbearance requests),” Calabria said. “So, I don’t know where those estimates are coming from, because they just don’t match anything we’re seeing at all.”

Due to that, Calabria said that the issues in the mortgage business, specifically among nonbanks, are more limited than some are suggesting.

The potential for trouble, according to Calabria, is at companies that have a concentration of FHA loans, which have a higher percentage of forbearance requests than the GSEs do so far.

“If you’re a servicer and 100% of your business is Ginnie (Mae) and this goes on for six months, maybe I see you in the 25% range,” Calabria said, referring to a firm’s delinquent loan percentage.

For more of HousingWire’s interview with Mark Calabria, click here.

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