BLOOMBERG: The U.S. government seized control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac after the biggest surge in mortgage defaults in at least three decades threatened to topple the companies making up almost half the U.S. home-loan market. “It is necessary to take action,” Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who engineered the takeover along with Federal Housing Finance Agency Director James Lockhart, said in Washington today. “Our economy and our markets will not recover until the bulk of this housing correction is behind us.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are critical to turning the corner.”The FHFA will take over Fannie and Freddie under a so-called conservatorship, replacing their chief executives and eliminating their dividends. The Treasury will purchase up to $100 billion of senior-preferred stock in each company as needed to maintain a positive net worth. It will also provide secured short-term funding to Fannie, Freddie and 12 federal home-loan banks, and purchase mortgage-backed debt in the open market.
The takeover of Fannie and Freddie is the biggest step yet in officials’ efforts to grapple with a yearlong credit crisis that has caused more than $500 billion of losses and writedowns. The government is taking an increasing role in financial markets, after the Federal Reserve six months ago provided $29 billion of financing to prevent Bear Stearns & Cos.’s collapse. MORE