From the WSJ:
U.S. Seizes Mortgage Giants
Government Ousts CEOs of Fannie, Freddie;
Promises Up to $200 Billion in Capital
By JAMES R. HAGERTY, RUTH SIMON and DAMIAN PALETTA
September 8, 2008; Page A1
In its most dramatic market intervention in years, the U.S. government seized two of the nation’s largest financial companies, taking direct responsibility for firms that provide funding for around three-quarters of new home mortgages.
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announced plans Sunday to take control of troubled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and replace the companies’ chief executives. The Treasury will acquire $1 billion of preferred shares in each company without providing immediate cash, and has pledged to provide as much as $200 billion to the companies as they cope with heavy losses on mortgage defaults. The Treasury’s plan puts the two companies under a conservatorship, giving management control to their regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, or FHFA.
With that, the U.S. mortgage crisis entered a new and uncharted phase, potentially saddling American taxpayers with billions of dollars in losses from home loans made by the private sector. Bush administration officials argued that the cost of doing nothing would be far greater because of the toll on the economy of falling home prices and defaults in the $11 trillion U.S. mortgage market.
Mr. Paulson noted that more than $5 trillion of debt and mortgage-backed securities issued by Fannie and Freddie is owned by central banks and other investors world-wide. “Failure of either of them would cause great turmoil in our financial markets here at home and around the globe,” Mr. Paulson said.
The Government on Sunday seized control of mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, launching what could be its biggest federal bailout ever, in a bid to support the U.S. housing market and ward off more global financial market turbulence.
Officials were concerned mounting losses at the two companies, which own or guarantee almost half of the country’s $12 trillion in outstanding home mortgage debt, was sapping their vitality and threatening to undermine them at a time other sources of housing finance have largely run dry.
“Our economy and our markets will not recover until the bulk of this housing correction is behind us,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said at a news conference. “Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are critical to turning the corner on housing.”
Paulson said Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were so large that “a failure of either of them would cause great turmoil in our financial markets here at home and around the globe.”
Several analysts said the move should help instill some confidence in shaky credit markets and lower mortgage costs.
“The government had to do something to eliminate uncertainty,” said Peter Goldman, a principal with Front Barnett Associates in Chicago. “Anything that eliminates uncertainty in the credit markets is a good thing.”