The Discerning Texan

All that is necessary for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing.
-- Edmund Burke
Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Root of all Evil: The Freddie and Fannie Gravy Train

As the fallout and panic from the financial mismanagement continues, and the blame game accelerates to new lows, Ed Morrissey flushes out the real difference between the Presidential candidates (and their parties) regarding the corruption that facilitated the whole mess in the first place. This is exceptional work from the good Captain:

With the financial sector in turmoil today, the media and the politicians have started throwing around blame with the same recklessness as lenders threw around credit to create the problem. Politically, the pertinent question is this: Which candidate foresaw the credit crisis and tried to do something about it? As it turns out, John McCain did — and partnered with three other Senate Republicans to reform the government’s involvement in lending three years ago, after an attempt by the Bush administration died in Congress two years earlier. McCain spoke forcefully on May 25, 2006, on behalf of the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005 (via Beltway Snark):

Mr. President, this week Fannie Mae’s regulator reported that the company’s quarterly reports of profit growth over the past few years were “illusions deliberately and systematically created” by the company’s senior management, which resulted in a $10.6 billion accounting scandal.

The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight’s report goes on to say that Fannie Mae employees deliberately and intentionally manipulated financial reports to hit earnings targets in order to trigger bonuses for senior executives. In the case of Franklin Raines, Fannie Mae’s former chief executive officer, OFHEO’s report shows that over half of Mr. Raines’ compensation for the 6 years through 2003 was directly tied to meeting earnings targets. The report of financial misconduct at Fannie Mae echoes the deeply troubling $5 billion profit restatement at Freddie Mac.

The OFHEO report also states that Fannie Mae used its political power to lobby Congress in an effort to interfere with the regulator’s examination of the company’s accounting problems. This report comes some weeks after Freddie Mac paid a record $3.8 million fine in a settlement with the Federal Election Commission and restated lobbying disclosure reports from 2004 to 2005. These are entities that have demonstrated over and over again that they are deeply in need of reform.

For years I have been concerned about the regulatory structure that governs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac–known as Government-sponsored entities or GSEs–and the sheer magnitude of these companies and the role they play in the housing market. OFHEO’s report this week does nothing to ease these concerns. In fact, the report does quite the contrary. OFHEO’s report solidifies my view that the GSEs need to be reformed without delay.

I join as a cosponsor of the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005, S. 190, to underscore my support for quick passage of GSE regulatory reform legislation. If Congress does not act, American taxpayers will continue to be exposed to the enormous risk that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pose to the housing market, the overall financial system, and the economy as a whole.

I urge my colleagues to support swift action on this GSE reform legislation.

In this speech, McCain managed to predict the entire collapse that has forced the government to eat Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, along with Bear Stearns and AIG. He hammers the falsification of financial records to benefit executives, including Franklin Raines and Jim Johnson, both of whom have worked as advisers to Barack Obama this year. McCain also noted the power of their lobbying efforts to forestall oversight over their business practices. He finishes with the warning that proved all too prescient over the past few days and weeks.

What was this bill? The act would have done the following:

(1) in lieu of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), an independent Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Agency which shall have authority over the Federal Home Loan Bank Finance Corporation, the Federal Home Loan Banks, the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae), and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac); and (2) the Federal Housing Enterprise Board.

Sets forth operating, administrative, and regulatory provisions of the Agency, including provisions respecting: (1) assessment authority; (2) authority to limit nonmission-related assets; (3) minimum and critical capital levels; (4) risk-based capital test; (5) capital classifications and undercapitalized enterprises; (6) enforcement actions and penalties; (7) golden parachutes; and (8) reporting.

It never made it out of committee. Chris Dodd, then the ranking member of the Banking Committee and now its chair, was in the middle of receiving preferential loan treatment from Countrywide Mortgage, one of the companies gaming the system in the credit crisis. Meanwhile, Barack Obama took hundreds of thousands of dollars from the lobbyists McCain mentions in this speech, making him the #2 recipient of Fannie/Freddie money ...
Raines, who McCain mentioned in his 2006 floor speech, was the chairman of Obama's VP selection committee. And the beat goes on... Read the rest here.

Also, if you missed the link above to Ed's earlier story about the Countrywide connection, be sure and check it out.
DiscerningTexan, 9/17/2008 08:58:00 PM |