It was clear the Obama’s administration never wanted to deal directly with Fannie and Freddie, instead deferring to Congress. Obama happily received and spent Fan/Fred’s profits while “waiting for Congress.”
Even when it was clear Congress was unable or unwilling to pass legislation dealing with Fan/Fred, Obama’s team was comfortable “kicking the can” to the next Administration despite knowing that Fan/Fred’s capital reserves would go to $0 by the end of their first calendar year in office – 2017.
There have been a number of indicators from the Trump Administration stating they will deal with the situation sooner than later. Both Steven Mnuchin and Gary Cohn have publicly stated the need to address Fan and Fred as one of the Administration’s important agenda items.
Yesterday, an Executive Summary for Trump’s 2018 Budget was released. It was more or less a top line summary of a more detailed budget due out in May. In the detailed budget, we will look for items involving the Net Worth Sweep. But, in the mean time we can consider what Mick Mulvaney wrote in the Exec Summary regarding Fan/Fred.
There is one passage that seems to directly or indirectly reference Fannie and Freddie:
“Empowers the Treasury Secretary, as Chairperson of the Financial Stability Oversight Council to end taxpayer bailouts and foster economic growth by advancing regulatory reforms that promote market discipline and ensure the accountability of financial regulators.”
Ending Taxpayer Bailouts: for a fiscal 2018 budget, the only “bailout” still on the Administration’s books is Fannie and Freddie (after a record 8 years and 6 months in conservatorship).
Foster Economic Growth: ending the uncertainty of Fannie/Freddie will inject life into the housing industry – roughly 20% of our economy.
Promote Market Discipline: put to rest the notion of private gain/public loss. Recapitalize Fan/Fred and allow them to compete in the free market without an explicit or implicit government backing.
Ensure Accountability of Financial Regulators: FHFA, under Obama-appointee Mel Watt, has refused to deal (at least publicly) with the Net Worth Sweep – after 4 years and 7 months! Again, this reference is in a fiscal 2018 budget…which other financial regulator needs to be held accountable more than Fan/Fred’s regulator — who has been doing the opposite of what is required by law from a conservator. This summary was written by Mulvaney, who as a Congressman, challenged Watt during a Banking Committee hearing asking why FHFA was ignoring the law regarding the conservatorship and the net worth sweep. He famously asked, “How can an agreement between two agencies trump the law!?”
Video clip of that exchange can be seen here: https://youtu.be/t7dqiiG0l4s
So, again, we’ll need to wait until May for the details of the budget to realize what this means for Fannie and Freddie in 2017.
However, in addition to the budget details, it will certainly be instructive to see if the quarterly dividends on the senior preferred stock are paid at the end of the month… a short two weeks away.
Another indicator of timing may be in the recent executive order on the financial system. President Trump stated he wanted action within 120 days (from February 3) on items that might involve Fan/Fred… or by the beginning of June.
We’ve waited long enough… now is the time for action…!!
Here is the Executive Order:
Presidential Executive Order on Core Principles for Regulating the United States Financial System
– – – – – – –
CORE PRINCIPLES FOR REGULATING
THE UNITED STATES FINANCIAL SYSTEM
By the power vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section 1. Policy. It shall be the policy of my Administration to regulate the United States financial system in a manner consistent with the following principles of regulation, which shall be known as the Core Principles:
(a) empower Americans to make independent financial decisions and informed choices in the marketplace, save for retirement, and build individual wealth;
(b) prevent taxpayer-funded bailouts;
(c) foster economic growth and vibrant financial markets through more rigorous regulatory impact analysis that addresses systemic risk and market failures, such as moral hazard and information asymmetry;
(d) enable American companies to be competitive with foreign firms in domestic and foreign markets;
(e) advance American interests in international financial regulatory negotiations and meetings;
(f) make regulation efficient, effective, and appropriately tailored; and
(g) restore public accountability within Federal financial regulatory agencies and rationalize the Federal financial regulatory framework.
Sec. 2. Directive to the Secretary of the Treasury. The Secretary of the Treasury shall consult with the heads of the member agencies of the Financial Stability Oversight Council and shall report to the President within 120 days of the date of this order (and periodically thereafter) on the extent to which existing laws, treaties, regulations, guidance, reporting and recordkeeping requirements, and other Government policies promote the Core Principles and what actions have been taken, and are currently being taken, to promote and support the Core Principles. That report, and all subsequent reports, shall identify any laws, treaties, regulations, guidance, reporting and recordkeeping requirements, and other Government policies that inhibit Federal regulation of the United States financial system in a manner consistent with the Core Principles.
Sec. 3. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or
(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.
(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
DONALD J. TRUMP
THE WHITE HOUSE,
February 3, 2017.