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8th Circuit rules Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac net worth sweep payments acceptable under FHFA statutory authority
On August 23, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of claims brought by shareholders of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs) against the GSEs’ conservator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), alleging that FHFA exceeded its powers under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA) and “acted arbitrarily and capriciously” when it entered an agreement with the Treasury Department requiring the GSEs to pay their entire net worth, minus a small buffer, as dividends to the Treasury every quarter. In so holding, the 8th Circuit joined the 5th, 6th, 7th, and D.C. Circuits, each of which has previously “rejected materially identical arguments” presented by other GSE shareholders. (See previous InfoBytes coverage on the 5th Circuit decision here.) The shareholders sought an injunction to set aside the so-called “net worth sweep,” asserting that “HERA’s limitation on judicial review does not apply when FHFA exceeds its statutory powers under the Act . . . [and] that the net worth sweep exceeds, and is antithetical to, FHFA’s statutory powers.” However, the appellate court agreed with the lower court and found, among other things, the net worth sweep payments to be acceptable because HERA “grant[s] FHFA broad discretion in its management and operation of Fannie and Freddie” and permits, but does not require, the agency “to preserve and conserve Fannie’s and Freddie’s assets and to return [them] to private operation.” The court also noted that HERA “authorize[d] FHFA to act ‘in the best interests’ of either Fannie and Freddie or itself,” thus affording FHFA more discretion than common law conservators. Finally, the appellate court held that HERA’s anti-injunction provision, which states that “no court may take any action to restrain or affect the exercise of powers or functions of the [FHFA] as a conservator or a receiver,” also precludes enjoining the Treasury Department from participating in the net worth sweep because doing so would “restrain or affect” FHFA.
On August 7, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) published a report providing the results of the fifth annual stress tests conducted by government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs). According to the report, Dodd-Frank Act Stress Tests Results – Severely Adverse Scenario—which provides modeled projections on possible ranges of future financial results and does not define the entirety of possible outcomes—the GSEs will need to draw between $42.1 billion and $77.6 billion in incremental Treasury aid under a “severely adverse” economic crisis, depending on how deferred tax assets are treated. The losses would leave $176.5 billion to $212 billion available to the companies under their current funding commitment agreements. Notably, the projected bailout maximum is lower this year than FHFA reported last year, which ranged between $34.8 billion and $99.6 billion.
On July 31, the Federal Housing Finance Agency announced a 60-day extension on the public comment period for a proposed rule that would implement a new regulatory capital framework for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Among other things, the proposed rule would implement: (i) a new framework for risk-based capital requirements; and (ii) two alternative approaches to setting minimum leverage capital requirements. (Previously covered by InfoBytes here). The previous deadline for comments was September 17, and the deadline is now November 16.
On June 21, the White House announced a government reorganization plan titled, “Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century: Reform Plan and Reorganization Recommendations.” The plan covers a wide-range of government reorganization proposals, including several related to the federal government’s involvement in mortgage finance. Among other things, the White House is proposing to end the conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs) and fully privatize the companies. The plan notes that a “[f]ederal entity with secondary mortgage market experience would be charged with regulatory oversight” of the GSEs, but does not state whether this would be done by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), the GSEs current primary regulator. According to the proposal, this structure would ensure the government’s role “is more transparent and accountable to taxpayers,” as HUD would assume the primary responsibility for affordable housing, and the GSEs would solely focus on secondary market liquidity.
On June 12, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced a proposed rulemaking, which implements a regulatory capital framework for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae (the Enterprises) including (i) a new framework for risk-based capital requirements; and (ii) two alternative approaches to setting minimum leverage capital requirements. Regulatory capital requirements for the Enterprises have been suspended since the Enterprises were placed in conservatorship in September 2008, and these new requirements would continue to be suspended while the Enterprises remain under conservatorship. FHFA stated that the purpose of the rulemaking effort is to develop a risk measurement framework to better evaluate each Enterprise’s business decisions while in conservatorship. As a result, the proposed risk-based capital requirements would “provide a granular assessment of credit risk specific to different mortgage loan categories, as well as market risk, operational risk, and going-concern buffer components.” The two options for minimal leverage capital requirements include (i) requiring the Enterprises to hold capital equal to 2.5 percent of total assets and off-balance sheet guarantees related to securitization activities; and (ii) requiring the Enterprises to hold capital equal to 1.5 percent of trust assets and 4 percent of non-trust assets. Comments on the proposed rulemaking must be submitted within 60 days of publication in the Federal Register.
- Tina Tchen to discuss the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund at the AHLA ForWard: Women Advancing Hospitality conference
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Protect yourself from a CFPB investigation" at the National Association of Settlement Purchasers Conference
- APPROVED Webcast: Financial services licensing developments: 2018-2019
- Tina Tchen to deliver keynote address at the American Bar Association Professional Success Summit
- Jeffrey P. Naimon and Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Enforcement and litigation trends" at the American Bankers Association General Counsel Meeting
- Andrea K. Mitchell to discuss "Developments in fair lending law" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Summit on Diversity and Inclusion
- David S. Krakoff to discuss "The DOJ corporate enforcement policy and your disclosure calculus one year in: Are companies benefitting?" at the American Conference Institute International Conference on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
- Moorari K. Shah to discuss "Legal & regulatory issues " at the Opal Group Marketplace Lending & Alternative Financing Summit
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Hot topics in consumer financial services" at the Practising Law Institute Banking Law Institute
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "New CDD Rule: Pitfalls in compliance" at the American Bankers Association/American Bar Association Financial Crimes Enforcement Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Anti-money laundering/OFAC compliance" at the Institute of International Bankers U.S. Regulatory/Compliance Orientation Program