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Extra resources for Brookings Papers on Economic Activity: Spring 2009
This was a great deal for the homeowner, who would face lower payments and gain substantial equity (while having to share some of these gains with the federal government on a future sale), but a huge write-down for the lender, actually exceeding 13 percent in instances where home prices had declined since origination. And there was ostensibly no government money involved, as the legislation required the GSEs to cover any costs—again demonstrating the reluctance of policymakers to be seen as writing checks to irresponsible homeowners.
To protect taxpayers in the case that an actual investment was needed in the future, he wanted to know first if these firms were solvent. The Treasury’s Office of Domestic Finance engaged a topnotch team from Morgan Stanley to dig into Fannie and Freddie’s books and assess their financial condition. While this was happening, it became apparent that the July 13 announcement and subsequent legislation had left markets uncertain about the status of the enterprises. The GSEs had access to private sector debt funding, although with increased costs, as the spreads on five-year Fannie benchmark agency debt above Treasuries rose from about 65 basis points in early June to 94 basis points on September 5, just before the firms were put into conservatorship.
VII. Rescuing the GSEs The relative quiet was to hold until early summer, when the effects of the housing collapse manifested themselves in the collapse of IndyMac and severe pressures on the GSEs, in the form of declining stock prices and widening spreads on Fannie and Freddie securities, and thus on mortgage interest rates for potential homebuyers. The FDIC took over IndyMac and turned the firm into a laboratory for its foreclosure prevention ideas, but the problems of the GSEs fell squarely in the Treasury’s court.