Melania Trump Club

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Fannie Mae

Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA; OTCQB: FNMA), commonly known as Fannie Mae, was founded in 1938 during the Great Depression as part of the New Deal. It is a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE), though it has been a publicly traded company since 1968. The corporation's purpose is to expand the secondary mortgage market by securitizing mortgages in the form of mortgage-backed securities (MBS), allowing lenders to reinvest their assets into more lending and in effect increasing the number of lenders in the mortgage market by reducing the reliance on thrifts.

Following their mission to meet federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) housing goals, GSEs such as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks (FHLBanks) have striven to improve home ownership of low and middle income families, underserved areas, and generally through special affordable methods such as "the ability to obtain a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with a low down payment... and the continuous availability of mortgage credit under a wide range of economic conditions." (HUD 2002 Annual Housing Activities Report) Then in 2003-2004, the subprime mortgage crisis began. The market shifted away from regulated GSE's and radically toward Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS) issued by unregulated private-label securitization conduits, typically operated by investment banks.

As mortgage originators began to distribute more and more of their loans through private label MBS's, GSE's lost the ability to monitor and control mortgage originators. Competition between the GSEs and private securitizers for loans further undermined GSEs power and strengthened mortgage originators. This contributed to a decline in underwriting standards and was a major cause of the financial crisis.

Investment bank securitizers were more willing to securitize risky loans because they generally retained minimal risk. Whereas the GSE's guaranteed the performance of their MBS's, private securitizers generally did not, and might only retain a thin slice of risk. Often, banks would offload this risk to insurance companies or other counterparties through credit default swaps, making their actual risk exposures extremely difficult for investors and creditors to discern.

The shift toward riskier mortgages and private label MBS distribution occurred as financial institutions sought to maintain earnings levels that had been elevated during 2001-2003 by an unprecedented refinancing boom due to historically low interest rates. Earnings depended on volume, so maintaining elevated earnings levels necessitated expanding the borrower pool using lower underwriting standards and new products that the GSE's would not (initially) securitize. Thus, the shift away from GSE securitization to private-label securitization (PLS) also corresponded with a shift in mortgage product type, from traditional, amortizing, fixed-rate mortgages (FRM's) to nontraditional, structurally riskier, nonamortizing, adjustable-rate mortgages (ARM's), and in the start of a sharp deterioration in mortgage underwriting standards. The growth of PLS, however, forced the GSEs to lower their underwriting standards in an attempt to reclaim lost market share to please their private shareholders. Shareholder pressure pushed the GSEs into competition with PLS for market share, and the GSEs loosened their guarantee business underwriting standards in order to compete. In contrast, the wholly public FHA/Ginnie Mae maintained their underwriting standards and instead ceded market share.

The growth of private-label securitization and lack of regulation in this part of the market resulted in the oversupply of underpriced housing finance that led, in 2006, to an increasing number of borrowers, often with poor credit, who were unable to pay their mortgages - particularly with adjustable rate mortgages (ARM), caused a precipitous increase in home foreclosures. As a result, home prices declined as increasing foreclosures added to the already large inventory of homes and stricter lending standards made it more and more difficult for borrowers to get mortgages. This depreciation in home prices led to growing losses for the GSEs, which back the majority of US mortgages. In July 2008, the government attempted to ease market fears by reiterating their view that "Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac play a central role in the US housing finance system". The US Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve took steps to bolster confidence in the corporations, including granting both corporations access to Federal Reserve low-interest loans (at similar rates as commercial banks) and removing the prohibition on the Treasury Department to purchase the GSEs' stock. Despite these efforts, by August 2008, shares of both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had tumbled more than 90% from their one-year prior levels.

On Oct 21, 2010 FHFA estimates revealed that the bailout of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae will likely cost taxpayers $224–360 billion in total, with over $150 billion already provided.

Business

Fannie Mae made money partly by borrowing for low rates, and lending at higher rates. It borrowed by selling bonds, and lent by creating mortgages and mortgage backed securities which it held on its own books. Since its implied government guarantee meant it could borrow at very low rates, it earned a higher profit than did the non-government companies doing the same work. This was called "The big, fat gap" by Alan Greenspan. By August, 2008, Fannie Mae's mortgage portfolio was in excess of $700 billion.

Fannie Mae also earned a significant portion of its income from guaranty fees it received as compensation for assuming the credit risk on the mortgage loans underlying its single-family Fannie Mae MBS and on the single-family mortgage loans held in its retained portfolio. Investors, or purchasers of Fannie Mae MBSs, are willing to let Fannie Mae keep this fee in exchange for assuming the credit risk; that is, Fannie Mae's guarantee that the scheduled principal and interest on the underlying loan will be paid even if the borrower defaults.

Fannie Mae's charter has historically prevented it from guaranteeing mortgages with a loan-to-values over 80% without mortgage insurance or a repurchase agreement with the lender; however, in 2006 and 2007 Fannie Mae did purchase subprime and Alt-A loans as investments.
Business mechanism
Fannie Mae headquarters at 3900 Wisconsin Avenue, NW in Washington, D.C.

Fannie Mae buys loans from approved mortgage sellers, either for cash or in exchange for a mortgage-backed security that comprises those loans and that, for a fee, carries Fannie Mae's guarantee of timely payment of interest and principal. The mortgage seller may hold that security or sell it. Fannie Mae may also securitize mortgages from its own loan portfolio and sell the resultant mortgage-backed security to investors in the secondary mortgage market, again with a guarantee that the stated principal and interest payments will be timely passed through to the investor. By purchasing the mortgages, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac provide banks and other financial institutions with fresh money to make new loans. This gives the United States housing and credit markets flexibility and liquidity.

 

In order for Fannie Mae to provide its guarantee to mortgage-backed securities it issues, it sets the guidelines for the loans that it will accept for purchase, called "conforming" loans. Mortgages that don't meet the guidelines are called "nonconforming". Fannie Mae produced an automated underwriting system (AUS) tool called Desktop Underwriter (DU) which lenders can use to automatically determine if a loan is conforming; Fannie Mae followed this program up in 2004 with Custom DU, which allows lenders to set custom underwriting rules to handle nonconforming loans as well.The secondary market for nonconforming loans includes jumbo loans, which are mortgages larger than the maximum mortgage that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will purchase. In early 2008, the decision was made to allow TBA (To-be-announced)-eligible mortgage-backed securities to include up to 10% "jumbo" mortgages.

 
Conforming loans

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have a limit on the maximum sized loan they will guarantee. This is known as the "conforming loan limit." The conforming loan limit for Fannie Mae, along with Freddie Mac, is set by Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO), the regulator of both GSEs. OFHEO annually sets the limit of the size of a conforming loan based on the October to October changes in mean home price, above which a mortgage is considered a non-conforming jumbo loan. The conforming loan limit is 50 percent higher in Alaska and Hawaii. The GSEs only buy loans that are conforming to repackage into the secondary market, lowering the demand for non-conforming loans. By virtue of the law of supply and demand, then, it is harder for lenders to sell these loans in the secondary market; thus these types of loans tend to cost more to borrowers (typically 1/4 to 1/2 of a percent). Indeed, in 2008, since the demand for bonds not guaranteed by GSEs was almost non-existent, non-conforming loans were priced nearly 1% to 1.5% higher than conforming loans.


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