Robert Waldmann comments on the Freddie Mac story recently in the news (lifted from Stochastic Thoughts):
Freddster (noun): Fraudster who profits from conflict of interest at Freddie Mac (the knife).
Jesse Eisinger, pf ProPublica and Chris Arnold, of the public sector NPR News have the most interesting article about ruthless greedy uh socialism I guess at public sector Freddie Mac.
The idea is that Freddie Went long on the interest payments on mortgages and not the principal repayments. This means the harder it is to refinance, the better for Freddie Mac. Freddie Mac also has huge regulatory power to decide how hard it is to refinance Freddie Mac insured loans. The conflict of interest is clear.
Via Kevin Drum where commenter Andrew Sprung wrote
Could Einsinger and Arnold”s story have been prompted by an administration leak as a prelude to a recess appointment to replace DeMarco at FHFA?
I hope so, or rather I wish I had any hope that it is so. But at least it is a hint that someone in the White House has decided to put pressure on DeMarco. I also look forward to testimony by the Freddie Mac CEO Charles Haldeman who I expect will have considerable trouble recalling details (see HR Block).
Here is a summary of the conflict of interest from Eisenger and Arnold with human interest and Freddie Mac efforts to respond to the accusation deleted.
Those mortgages underpin securities that get divided into two basic categories.
One portion is backed mainly by principal, pays a low return, and was sold to investors who wanted a safe place to park their money. The other part, the inverse floater, is backed mainly by the interest payments on the mortgages … . So this portion of the security can pay a much higher return, and this is what Freddie retained.
In 2010 and ’11, Freddie purchased $3.4 billion worth of inverse floater portions — their value based mostly on interest payments on $19.5 billion in mortgage-backed securities, according to prospectuses for the deals.
It’s … a big problem if people … refinance their mortgages. That’s because a refi is a new loan; the borrower pays off the first loan early, stopping the interest payments. Since the security Freddie owns is backed mainly by those interest payments, Freddie loses.
Restricting credit for people who have done short sales isn’t the only way that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have tightened their lending criteria in the wake of the financial crisis, making it harder for borrowers to get housing loans.
just as it was escalating its inverse floater deals, it was also introducing new fees on borrowers, including those wanting to refinance. During Thanksgiving week in 2010, Freddie quietly announced that it was raising charges, called post-settlement delivery fees.
In a recent white paper on remedies for the stalled housing market, the Federal Reserve criticized Fannie and Freddie for the fees they have charged for refinancing. Such fees are “another possible reason for low rates of refinancing” and are “difficult to justify,” the Fed wrote.
A former Freddie employee, who spoke on condition he not be named, was even blunter: “Generally, it makes no sense whatsoever” for Freddie “to restrict refinancing” from expensive loans to ones borrowers can more easily pay, since the company remains on the hook if homeowners default.