Two Republican Congressmen advised Federal Housing Finance Agency Acting Director Edward DeMarco to oppose principal reductions for GSE-backed loans.

The letter, submitted by House government oversight committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Rep. Patrick McHenry, came two days after Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and John Tierney, D-Mass., sent a letter to DeMarco in support of principal reduction.

In that letter, the Democratic congressmen pointed out Fannie Mae records show the GSE and its regulator approved and then quickly shut down a pilot principal forgiveness program in 2010 that could have saved the company approximately $410 million.  

But Reps. Issa and McHenry conveyed a different message in their latest letter to DeMarco, saying FHFA “occupies a unique position in our system of government in which its independence rests upon the need for technical expertise free from coercive influences.”

Issa and McHenry said it was regretful DeMarco was caught in the middle, but urged him not to be bullied and to continue to recognize the potential cost of a principal reduction to taxpayers. They even cited a letter DeMarco previously sent to Rep. Cummings in which he estimated principal forgiveness on all first-lien underwater mortgages owned by the enterprises would require funding of nearly $100 billion to pay down the mortgages backing the homes. They also pointed out that DeMarco recently said the net cost of write-downs to the taxpayer could amount to $2.1 billion.

In addition, Issa and McHenry warned DeMarco about the prospect of using HAMP funds to subsidize the performance of principal reductions, writing that it “contravenes Congressional intent with respect to TARP and HAMP.”

The two congressmen also warned that such an action could turn into a back-door bailout for banks holding second liens on enterprise-owned or guaranteed properties.  

“As you know, the principal modification on a first-lien mortgage improves the position of a subordinate lien holder to the degree that the second lien is more likely to be repaid,” the congressmen wrote. “Even where the second lien is modified similar to the first lien, as in HAMP, the second lien holder benefits by sharing in any overall losses with the first lien holder.”

The pair claim such a set-up would allow second-lien holders to potentially recover more than they would have in a default.

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