Turns out that all of those record profits that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are turning over to the Treasury don’t so much account for a few billion dollars in losses on delinquent mortgages. Read more »
Over on the imaginary stock markets where Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac trade they’ve had a rough day, with FNMA and FMCC common stock each down almost 13% and the preferred … um … down surprisingly small amounts but, y’know, on light volume. The impetus is presumably this:
A bipartisan group of senators on Tuesday introduced a bill to abolish Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and replace them with a government reinsurer of mortgage securities that would backstop private capital in a crisis. … Under the bill, which is being led by Tennessee Republican Bob Corker and Virginia Democrat Mark Warner, the two companies would be liquidated within five years.
The basic thing about investing in big banks’ unsecured debt is that once upon a time it was a pseudo-risk-free proposition because, like, it’s a bank, what could possibly go wrong,1 and now it’s like,2 hi, you are buying the mezzanine (call it 10-to-30%-loss3) tranche in an actively traded and extremely opaque CDO full of goofy stuff and, hey, put a price on that.
I don’t know who’ll be good at putting a price on that but it stands to reason that Jes Staley, the former head of JPMorgan’s investment bank who left for BlueMountain shortly after several billion dollars of JPMorgan’s money made the same voyage, would. He thinks so anyway:
On a panel at the Bloomberg Hedge Funds Summit in New York, Mr. Staley discussed what is known as resolution authority, in which regulators help wind down failing banks. The process of adapting to these new rules, he said, would give banks a “more clearly defined capital structure,” and thereby create opportunities for investors.
“There’s going to be tremendous mis-pricing between the different levels of the capital structure in these banks,” Mr. Staley, who is known as Jes, said on the panel.
One imagines that, if all goes according to plan, then at some point between now and the end of time:
- There will be some bank debt (deposits!) that is bail-outable and more or less government guaranteed;
- There will be some other bank debt (repo!) that is collateralized and more or less money-good, ish;
- There will be some other other bank debt that is bail-inable and more or less clearly mezzaniney and going to be toasted in any bank failure; and
- People will believe that.
Fannie And Freddie Preferred Stock Slowly Finding Its Way Back Into The Hands Of People Who Don’t Know Any BetterBy Matt Levine
Articles about the Fannie & Freddie preferred trade have been burbling around for a while and I’ve never understood it. The Journal has two good articles on it today, with this being a particularly clear explanation, and … I still don’t get it? Basically the thing is:
- the government seized Fannie and Freddie in 2008 and turned off the (non-cumulative!) preferred stock dividends,
- it recently swore that it would reduce their shareholders’ equity to zero, salt the earth on which they grew, and never ever ever ever unseize them or turn back on the pref dividends, so
- those prefs look like a screaming buy.
Or something? Per the Journal, “Paulson & Co. and Perry Capital LLC are among a handful of hedge-fund firms that have bought so-called preferred shares in Fannie and Freddie.” They’re selling at ~18-20 cents on the dollar, which I suppose reflects a, what, 30% implied probability that they get turned back on in the imaginable future?1 Does that sound like, um, this? Read more »
Ninety percent of what happens in the typical lawsuit is (1) a lawyer for one side sends a letter to the other side asking for some information to prepare for a trial that will never happen, (2) the lawyer for the other side sends back a passive-aggressive letter refusing to provide that information, and (3) the lawyer for the first side sends a passive-aggressive letter to the judge saying “NO FAIR.” Seriously, that’s what happens. It’s called “discovery,” and it goes on until the lawyers’ bills have gotten big enough that everyone decides to settle the case.
In that milieu, someone sending an aggressive-by-passive-aggressive letter qualifies as huge news, and so there is a lot of excitement over this rather tart mandamus motion that fifteen big banks filed to overturn some discovery rulings that Judge Denise Cote made in a mortgage-backed-securities lawsuit. I will not attempt to convince you that its tartness is all that interesting; I just want you to have context for why some people think it is.
The case is interesting though. The FHFA, the regulator that oversees Fannie and Freddie, is suing the fifteen banks1 for selling crappy subprime residential mortgage-backed securities to Fannie and Freddie. Being a securities-fraud lawsuit, the basic claim is “you lied to us in the offering documents for these RMBS, and we relied on those lies, so we bought your RMBS, and then we lost money because of your lies.” And the lies in the offering documents are not “these mortgages will never default!,” but rather lies to the effect of “we bought these loans from originators, and reviewed those originators’ underwriting practices, and we believe that the originators underwrote them carefully and didn’t just stuff them full of fraud.”
The banks make a pretty good point, though, in this motion: Fannie and Freddie, who were being deceived by the big underwriter banks into buying all these RMBSes stuffed with crappy mortgages from crappy originators, were also separately buying similar mortgages directly from the same originators. And, presumably, doing whatever due diligence they expected the underwriter banks to be doing: Read more »
Who won the Bank of America / Fannie feud? I want the answer to be “all of us,” but I guess it isn’t. Unlike Bank of America’s multi-front battle of deviousness with MBIA, which has spawned some genuine entertainment, BofA’s battle with Fannie has been conducted almost entirely in the boring trenches of actually flinging mortgages at each other. The story so far: back in the bad old days of “January 1, 2000 to December 31, 2008,” BofA/Countrywide sold approximately $1.4 trillion of mortgages to Fannie; in recent years Fannie has been figuring out that lots of those mortgages were badly underwritten, came with false reps and warranties, etc., and so it can demand that BofA repurchase them at par. It’s tried to do so on around $11bn of loans, and BofA’s reaction has been along the lines of (1) no and (2) “we’re so mad we’re going to stop selling you more mortgages,” which somewhat surprisingly to the casual observer actually seems to have been interpreted by both sides as a threat rather than a reward.
But today Fannie and BofA announced a settlement that would resolve all of those claims, as well as almost all future claims on the $297 billion of unpaid principal that remains on those $1.4 trillion of ’00-to-’08 mortgages.
The math here is a little funny. Let’s try to parse it: Read more »