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Treasury Lays Out Plan To Make Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Private Again

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin

The Trump administration is working on an ambitious plan to give the two backbones of the U.S. mortgage industry back to the free market.

The U.S. Treasury Department is finalizing a plan to privatize mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac after over 10 years of government control since the Great Recession, the Wall Street Journal reports. The plan involves the strategy known as "recap and release," in which the government would raise the capital needed for Fannie and Freddie to survive another downturn without needing to be bailed out again.

Before the plan gets final approval, it will be looked over and possibly tweaked by other executive branch departments, including the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which is in charge of regulating the two companies, and the National Economic Council, the WSJ reports.

The plan would require final approval from President Donald Trump, but he and his administration have continually expressed a preference for Congress to take the lead on a transition plan. Recapitalizing Fannie and Freddie would at least partially require an initial public offering, and the FHFA estimates that the two agencies would need as much as $125B in capital, five times larger than the biggest IPO in history, according to the WSJ. 

However the government would accomplish it, raising that sort of capital would prove a windfall for Fannie and Freddie's current investors, mostly made up of hedge funds, the WSJ reports. Hedge funds on the whole have reportedly been betting on an imminent privatization since Trump nominated Mark Calabria to head the FHFA.

Aside from hedge funds, many in the multifamily housing market have expressed worry that a re-privatized Fannie and Freddie could destabilize the national mortgage industry, undoing much of the stability it has gained since the recession. Without considerable trust in Fannie and Freddie to guarantee the packaging of mortgages into securities, a major conduit of capital in the American economy would be jeopardized.