The SEC had sued Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac executives with securities fraud, three years after the fact. The fraud charges are about lying to investors over subprime loans.
They knew and approved of misleading statements claiming the companies had minimal holdings of higher-risk mortgage loans, including subprime loans.
This is a civil case, not a criminal one. Most interesting while going after some ex-executives the SEC lets Fannie and Freddie off the hook. Nothing happens to the two GSEs now.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac each entered into a Non-Prosecution Agreement with the Commission in which each company agreed to accept responsibility for its conduct and not dispute, contest, or contradict the contents of an agreed-upon Statement of Facts without admitting nor denying liability. Each also agreed to cooperate with the Commission's litigation against the former executives.
The case is being filed in New York State and the three former executives from Fannie Mae are Chief Executive Officer Daniel H. Mudd, former Chief Risk Officer Enrico Dallavecchia, and former Executive Vice President of Fannie Mae's Single Family Mortgage business, Thomas A. Lund.
Freddie Macs sacrificial lambs are Chairman of the Board and CEO Richard F. Syron, former Executive Vice President and Chief Business Officer Patricia L. Cook, and former Executive Vice President for the Single Family Guarantee business Donald J. Bisenius.
Why now? According to the SEC these executives lied to investors about their toxic mortgage exposure, which is something known for some time. We're sure GOP Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich isn't too thrilled about the SEC's timing. Here are some more details from the press release. Notice the focus on investors. At least the SEC is mentioning the millions with so called weak credit histories pushed and shuttled into these subprime, predatory mortgages were also defrauded.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac executives told the world that their subprime exposure was substantially smaller than it really was.
The SEC's complaint against the former Fannie Mae executives alleges that, when Fannie Mae began reporting its exposure to subprime loans in 2007, it broadly described the loans as those "made to borrowers with weaker credit histories," and then reported — with the knowledge, support, and approval of Mudd, Dallavecchia, and Lund — less than one-tenth of its loans that met that description. Fannie Mae reported that its 2006 year-end Single Family exposure to subprime loans was just 0.2 percent, or approximately $4.8 billion, of its Single Family loan portfolio. Investors were not told that in calculating the Company's reported exposure to subprime loans, Fannie Mae did not include loan products specifically targeted by Fannie Mae towards borrowers with weaker credit histories, including more than $43 billion of Expanded Approval, or "EA" loans.
Fannie Mae's executives also knew and approved of the decision to underreport Fannie Mae's Alt-A loan exposure, the SEC alleged. Fannie Mae disclosed that its March 31, 2007 exposure to Alt-A loans was 11 percent of its portfolio of Single Family loans. In reality, Fannie Mae's Alt-A exposure at that time was approximately 18 percent of its Single Family loan holdings.
The misleading disclosures were made as Fannie Mae's executives were seeking to increase the Company's market share through increased purchases of subprime and Alt-A loans, and gave false comfort to investors about the extent of Fannie Mae's exposure to high-risk loans, the SEC alleged.
In the complaint against the former Freddie Mac executives, the SEC alleged that they and Freddie Mac led investors to believe that the firm used a broad definition of subprime loans and was disclosing all of its Single-Family subprime loan exposure. Syron and Cook reinforced the misleading perception when they each publicly proclaimed that the Single Family business had "basically no subprime exposure." Unbeknown to investors, as of December 31, 2006, Freddie Mac's Single Family business was exposed to approximately $141 billion of loans internally referred to as "subprime" or "subprime like," accounting for 10 percent of the portfolio, and grew to approximately $244 billion, or 14 percent of the portfolio, as of June 30, 2008.
If you think this is a huge deal, it's not. First, there are no criminal charges and secondly, Countrywide ex-CEO Angelo Mozilo was also charged with fraud, yet in the end only paid $22.5 million in fines, another $45 million in forfeits and didn't even have to admit he did anything wrong, never mind go to jail! Countrywide itself paid $108 million in fines.
This civil action literally lets Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac completely off the hook. In the end, the SEC settlement result will probably end up being a wrist slap, similar to Countrywide's Mozilo.