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Holly LaFon
Holly LaFon
Articles (7844) 

Bill Ackman Comments on Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac

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August 18, 2017 | About:

Fannie and Freddie (FNMA)(FMCC) have cost us substantial performance this year as their large share price gains after the November U.S. Presidential election have nearly completely retraced. Both stocks have fallen by approximately 30% year-to-date. They are trading modestly above our average purchase prices of nearly four years ago despite substantial increases in intrinsic value since that time (albeit these increases have been offset by a nearly 100% sweep of the profits of both companies by the U.S. government), and the growing potential for a resolution of their status.

Over the last nine years since the financial crisis, the Congressional dialogue around Fannie and Freddie has changed dramatically, and in a manner which we believe is favorable for shareholders. We believe the consensus view in Congress and the White House is that the 30-year prepayable fixed rate mortgage, which is the bedrock of middle-class housing values and affordability, is essential for the economy and the American people, and would not exist without Fannie and Freddie. In addition, there is a growing consensus that the U.S. government must play a role as a catastrophic guarantor for the housing financing system, and that the private sector should pay a market-based fee for that support. As importantly, the government would like the private sector to invest a large amount of capital in a first loss position to protect the government’s guarantee from ever being called upon.

We believe that there is a growing consensus that the simplest and lowest risk solution to address each of these key considerations is the reform and restructuring of Fannie and Freddie supported by a large capital raise from the private sector and the retained earnings of the two companies. In order for this capital to be raised, the investment proposition for new investors has to be appealing. No new investor will invest in Fannie and Freddie unless historic investors are protected from, and compensated for, the expropriation of profits from the two companies that took place with the cash-flow sweep transaction that has swept more than $270 billion of profits from Fannie and Freddie since the crisis.

Wall Street’s memory of injecting tens of billions of dollars into Fannie and Freddie just prior to their conservatorship, and the expropriation of both companies’ profits forever, just as they began to turn profitable, is still fresh. Completing the largest capital raise in history in a newly restructured Fannie and Freddie will not be achievable unless and until investors in the companies are treated fairly and receive commitments that the extra-legal action of the past will be reversed and not reoccur. We believe this is understood in Washington.

We are fortunate that two of the most financially sophisticated Senators in Washington, Senators Corker and Warner, have taken the lead on housing finance reform and have suggested that they will put forth new legislation shortly to address this last remaining restructuring of the financial crisis. We believe that this initiative combined with support from the Treasury Secretary has dramatically increased the chances of a favorable resolution for the country and for investors in Fannie and Freddie, including the government, which is not reflected in their current share prices.

Since the government and taxpayers own 79.9% of the common stocks of both companies, the interests of shareholders and the government are largely aligned. Fannie and Freddie offer one of the few potential opportunities for political compromise in the current political environment as a resolution could generate tens of billions of dollars for taxpayers and reduce the risk of future government outlays. For all of the above reasons, we believe that there is likely to be significant positive developments at both companies in the short term which are not reflected in their share prices.

From Bill Ackman (Trades, Portfolio)'s second quarter 2017 shareholder letter.


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