Posted date: August 26, 2015
Fannie and Freddie reported another strong quarter. These results further corroborate our thesis that both entities could recapitalize and safely exit conservatorship if the Net Worth Sweep (the U.S. Government’s expropriation of each quarter’s net worth by extraordinary dividends) is eliminated. During the quarter, there were a number of positive legal developments in the shareholder litigation against the U.S. Government expropriation.
In the D.C. Court of Appeals, the plaintiffs filed a strong appeal brief against the decision last September dismissing their claims that the Net Worth Sweep violated applicable statutory restrictions. Numerous amici (friends of the court) briefs were filed in support of the plaintiffs, two of which are worth highlighting.
One came from several parties including the Independent Community Bankers of America and William Isaacs, the former FDIC Chairman, who during his career personally oversaw the conservatorship or receivership of hundreds of banks during the S&L crisis. The brief argues that Fannie and Freddie’s conservatorships were modeled word-for-word on FDIC conservatorships, and that the Net Worth Sweep
is both unprecedented and inconsistent with the goals of conservatorship as understood and implemented for over 80 years. If allowed to stand, the brief argues, the Net Worth Sweep will cause providers of capital to financial institutions to question whether the rule of law and the established hierarchy of corporate claims can be preserved in conservatorship. Banks rely on low-cost debt and preferred stock financing in order to provide low-cost loans to consumers. If the courts allow assets of a private financial institution to be expropriated during conservatorship, there will be few if any lenders willing to provide financing to financial institutions, particularly during a time of stress.
In his amicus brief, former Fannie Mae CFO Tim Howard offered an accounting-based analysis that questioned the necessity and motives behind the Net Worth Sweep. During conservatorship, the FHFA changed the GSEs accounting policies, accelerating non-cash charges, generating paper losses, and leading to a substantial majority of the Treasury’s $190 billion preferred stock investment. From 2008 to 2011, Mr. Howard shows, the GSEs’ actual credit losses were exceeded by their cash profits, while the non-cash charges that necessitated the capital injections have largely been reversed, leading the Treasury to “sweep” away almost all of the GSEs’ capital since 2012.
In the Court of Federal Claims, plaintiffs have filed redacted documents that suggest that their discovery process has uncovered evidence that contradicts the government’s defense of the Net Worth Sweep and calls into question both its necessity and true purpose. Although these documents are filed under seal, Judge Sweeney has allowed them to be used in related cases in the District Court and Court of Appeals.