Fannie, Freddie could cost govt $53 billion through 2020

WASHINGTON Thu Sep 16, 2010 2:54pm EDT

Related Topics

Photo

Who's at Sun Valley?

Media and tech giants converge on Allen & Co's annual gathering.  Slideshow 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae (FNMA.OB) and Freddie Mac (FMCC.OB) could cost the government $53 billion through 2020 or save the government as much as $44 billion, depending on the accounting principles used, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said on Thursday.

"The alternative methods result in quite different estimates of the (government sponsored enterprises') impact on the federal budget," CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf said in a letter to House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, who requested the different estimates.

CBO used three different methodologies to come up with its estimates: cash treatments, fair value, and principles used under the Federal Credit Reform Act, or FCRA.

Using fair value accounting, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would cost the government about $14 billion in fiscal 2011, which begins October 1, $9 billion the following year and smaller amounts in later years, to bring the 10-year total cost to $53 billion.

Using cash transaction accounting, the two entities would cost about $20 billion in the first year, $10 billion in fiscal 2012 and then begin to save the government single-digit billions starting in fiscal 2014 to total about $8 billion in net savings over the decade.

Cash transactions reflect the payments made between the entities and the federal government, not transactions between the GSEs and the private sector.

Using FCRA rules, the government would save single-digit billions in each of the 10 years for a combined savings of $44 billion.

Under FCRA, the net cost of a loan or loan guarantee is calculated as the net present value of expected cash flows over the life of the obligation.

The fair value treatment differs from FCRA because it includes the cost of financial market risk.

"By incorporating a market-based risk premium associated with the GSEs credit guarantees, they reflect the fact that the government's assumption of financial risk is costly to taxpayers," Elmendorf wrote.

CBO uses fair value treatment for its baseline budget forecasts to "provide the Congress with the most accurate information about the cost of supporting" Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac under conservatorship.

The United States government seized the two firms in late 2008 at the height of the financial crisis. Since then, the two entities have taken about $150 billion in direct aid from the government.

(Editing by Andrea Ricci)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (4)
TheRonald wrote:
The loss is likely to be far greater if they and the banks do not implement the TACT Program soon.

If the economy slides into a double-dip after the elections (looks likely)the losses will probably exceed $50 billion PER MONTH for the foreseeable future. For a more thorough analysis see: http://tiny.cc/ov9zs

Sep 16, 2010 12:24am EDT  --  Report as abuse
ebano wrote:
If bondholders, like China, donĀ“t use “financial market risk” to value their bonds that are not 100% guarantee by the US, why does the government?.
China must take a hit in their undervalued bonds and exchange them for shares with a loss.

Sep 17, 2010 3:11am EDT  --  Report as abuse
doomerjohnm wrote:
This report came out the same day it was reported that foreign central banks dumped $57 billion of Agency Debt holdings at the FRBNY in the previous week. I suggest the OMB check for N2O levels in their office.

Sep 17, 2010 7:46am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.