"U.S. Uncaps Support for Fannie, Freddie"

Didn't anyone learn anything from the last fiasco?

So far, the government has pumped $60 billion into Fannie Mae and $51 billion into Freddie Mac to keep each company solvent since it seized the firms in September 2008 under a legal authority known as "conservatorship." The companies, threatened by mounting mortgage defaults, were headed toward collapse.

At the time, the Treasury pledged to inject up to $100 billion of capital apiece as needed into the companies in exchange for preferred stock paying a 10% dividend. The Obama administration earlier this year doubled that commitment to $200 billion. . . .

What incentives are created by the government promising to pick up any and all losses born by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?

The U.S. Treasury said it would provide capital as needed to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over the next three years, effectively opening its checkbook to the government-controlled companies in a bid to reassure investors in their debt. . . .

Some more details here:

The Treasury Department said Thursday it removed the $400 billion financial cap on the money it will provide to keep the companies afloat. Already, taxpayers have shelled out $111 billion to the pair, and a senior Treasury official said losses are not expected to exceed the government's estimate this summer of $170 billion over 10 years. . . .

By making the change before year-end, Treasury sidestepped the need for an OK from a bailout-weary Congress.

While most analysts say the companies are unlikely to use the full $400 billion, Treasury officials said they decided to lift the caps to eliminate any uncertainty among investors about the government's commitments. But the timing of the announcement on a traditionally slow news day raised eyebrows.

"The companies are nowhere close to using the $400 billion they had before, so why do this now?" said Bert Ely, a banking consultant in Alexandria, Va. "It's possible we may see some horrendous numbers for the fourth quarter and, thus 2009, and Treasury wants to calm the markets." . . .

For some past posts see here.

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