Fannie-Freddie Fix at $160 Billion With $1 Trillion Worst Case
By Lorraine Woellert and John Gittelsohn
The cost of fixing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage companies that last year bought or guaranteed three-quarters of all U.S. home loans, will be at least $160 billion and could grow to as much as $1 trillion after the biggest bailout in American history. Fannie and Freddie, now 80 percent owned by U.S. taxpayers, already have drawn $145 billion from an unlimited line of government credit granted to ensure that home buyers can get loans while the private housing-finance industry is moribund. That surpasses the amount spent on rescues of American International Group Inc., General Motors Co. or Citigroup Inc., which have begun repaying their debts. “It is the mother of all bailouts,” said Edward Pinto, a former chief credit officer at Fannie Mae, who is now a consultant to the mortgage-finance industry.
The companies’ liabilities stem in large part from loans and mortgage-backed securities issued between 2005 and 2007. Fannie and Freddie also raised billions of dollars by selling their own corporate debt to investors around the world. The bonds are seen as safe because of an implicit government guarantee against default. Foreign governments, including China’s and Japan’s, hold $908 billion of such bonds, according to Fed data. “Do we really want to go to the central bank of China and say, ‘Tough luck, boys’? That’s part of the problem,” said Karen Petrou, managing partner of Federal Financial Analytics Inc., a Washington-based research firm.