100 WORRD SUMMARRY FANNIE MAE2
SUMMARY AND YOUR THOUGHTS CENTERED ON THE COMMON AND PREFERRED STOCKS 100 WORDS
Would you buy stock in a company that barred you from sharing in its future earnings? Of course not. Participating in the upside is what stock ownership is all about.
And yet, as of December 2010, holders of Fannie Maeand Freddie Maccommon stock were subject to such a restriction by the United States government. They didn’t know it at the time, though, because the policy was not disclosed.
The memo was addressed to Timothy F. Geithner, then the Treasury secretary, from Jeffrey A. Goldstein, then the under secretary for domestic finance. In discussing Fannie and Freddie, the beleaguered government-sponsored enterprises rescued by taxpayers in September 2008, the memo referred to “the administration’s commitment to ensure existing common equity holders will not have access to any positive earnings from the G.S.E.’s in the future.”
The memo, which was produced in a lawsuit filed by Fannie and Freddie shareholders, was dated Dec. 20, 2010. Securities laws require material information — that is, information that might affect an investor’s view of a company — to be disclosed. That the government would deny a company’s shareholders all its profits certainly seems material, but the existence of this policy cannot be found in the financial filings of Fannie Mae. Neither have the Treasury’s discussions about the future of the two finance giants mentioned the administration’s commitment to shut common stockholders out of future earnings. Freddie Mac’s filings do refer, albeit incompletely, to the administration’s stance, noting that the Treasury “has indicated that it remains committed to protecting taxpayers and ensuring that our future positive earnings are returned to taxpayers as compensation for their investment.” Note that this reference does not say allearnings.
Lewis D. Lowenfels, a securities law expert in New York, found this statement insufficient. “If there is disclosure regarding future Fannie and Freddie earnings and the administration has a commitment that existing Fannie and Freddie common equity holders will never receive any future positive earnings,” he said, “this commitment would be material to investors and should be disclosed.”Continue reading the main story
When the memo was written, plenty of people held these stocks. Regulatory filings show that 18,000 investors held 1.1 billion shares of Fannie Mae common stock, while just over 2,100 investors held 650 million Freddie Mac shares.
Back in 2010 and 2011, of course, common stockholders of Fannie and Freddie had little hope of making much money. During those days of rampant mortgage defaults and losses, investors were warned about the uncertainty of their companies’ prospects. Fannie and Freddie shareholders were repeatedly told that the preferred and common stock would have value only if anything remained after taxpayers were fully repaid for the rescue. With the amount of that rescue peaking at $189.5 billion, that was a very big “if.” On the day the Treasury memo was written, the price of Fannie Mae shares closed at 34 cents.
But the companies staged a turnaround; in mid-2012, they began earning billions. With interest rates low and banks not lending, Fannie and Freddie became the only mortgage game in town. By Sept. 30 of last year, the companies had returned $185 billion to the Treasury.
Failing to disclose the administration’s hard line on the companies’ shareholders is disturbing for another reason. In bailing out Fannie and Freddie, the Treasury received warrants — optionlike securities that rise in value when the shares underlying them do. When investors, hoping for a housing recovery, flocked to the shares and pushed them higher, the value of the warrants increased. Fannie’s common stock now trades at $3.06 a share.
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