The Last Trillion-Dollar Commitment: The Destruction of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

The government takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was necessary because of their massive losses on more than $1 trillion of subprime and Alt-A investments, almost all of which were added to their single-family book of business between 2005 and 2007. The most plausible explanation for the sudden adoption of this disastrous course—disastrous for them and for the U.S. financial markets—is their desire to continue to retain the support of Congress after their accounting scandals in 2003 and 2004 and the challenges to their business model that ensued. Although the strategy worked—Congress did not adopt strong government-sponsored enterprise reform legislation until the Republicans demanded it as the price for Senate passage of a housing bill in July 2008—it led inevitably to the government takeover and the enormous junk loan losses still to come.

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