Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Fannie and Freddie

Obviously the biggest news on Wall Street this week was the Federal Government seizing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac before both of these mortgage giants failed in a catastrophic manner. These companies have been faltering for many months while looking for lines of credit to bail them out, the government went one step further and completely took over the firms while giving top executives the boot.

The entire situation is also another example of intervention not allowing proper capitalism to play out in the market. The term “moral hazard” comes to mind in which businesses do not take responsibility for their risky behavior; this only entices other businesses to take poor risks. Especially in an environment where it appears that “gains for privatized and losses are socialized”.

While the government takeover may have buffered the mortgage market in the short term and cheered up Wall Street on Monday, the long term picture is much less clear. The U.S. tax payer is going to be stuck with the tab. The question remains on just how big the tab will be – estimates range from $250 billion to $5 trillion. The actual cost is very dependent on how the housing market and associated credit recovers. One recent article outlined how the seizure of these mortgage giant is the taxpayer’s risk (If takeover tanks, we're holding bag).

Similar too many previous government interventions, this action with Freddie and Fannie may help alleviate the short term crisis, but the toll down the road will be much greater and more painful.


jesse said...

Great post here, Obama out with a new refi plan this AM on all non-agency loans...what this do to the agencies?