Federal Housing Finance Agency Acting Director Edward DeMarco pushed back against Democratic lawmakers Tuesday, claiming the agency decision on principal reduction will be based on analytics not ideology.
Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and John Tierney, D-Mass., sent a letter earlier in the morning to DeMarco. They pointed to internal documents at Fannie Mae showing the government-sponsored enterprise and its regulator approved but then quickly closed a pilot principal forgiveness program in 2010 that could have saved the firm $410 million.
DeMarco expressed disappointment in the letter and said since 2009, the FHFA approved multiple pilot programs for principal forgiveness, but the approvals did not indicate a "pre-determined view."
"The fact that FHFA continues to consider principal-forgiveness alternatives, including recent HAMP program changes initiated by the Treasury Department, belies any ideological tilt on our part, but rather a strict analytical-based approach to gathering and evaluating data to determine what options best fit within the legal constraints that fall upon this agency as conservator for the enterprises," DeMarco said in the letter.
DeMarco said while many pilot programs were developed, "there was not full agreement to proceed at the enterprises or their counterparties," which in this instance was Citigroup (C).
The pilot program in question involves 1,200 mortgages originated by Citi for shared appreciation and 1,000 Fannie-guaranteed loans for principal forgiveness, according to the internal documents reviewed by HousingWire. The program would have been partly rolled out in the second quarter of 2011, according to several of the internal emails.
In an early April speech, DeMarco showed preliminary FHFA analysis on new principal-reduction incentives. The expanded HAMP effort could save Fannie and Freddie Mac $1.7 billion but would cost taxpayers a net $2.8 billion. He also outlined how principal forbearance was a substitute for a shared-appreciation program.
The FHFA delayed its decision on approving the GSEs to do principal reductions, but DeMarco said in the letter that this is a decision meant for Congress.
"Such a policy question, especially as it has to do with public funds being taken from one group of citizens to provide a benefit to another group of citizens, should be determined by Congress," DeMarco wrote. "In the absence of clear legislative direction, however, FHFA will continue to make determinations in how best to accomplish both of these goals after careful analysis of the facts and other information available to us and the multiple legal responsibilities placed upon us."