Top executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac struck a conciliatory tone at this week's Mortgage Bankers Association presidents' conference.
"Fannie Mae is your partner," Fannie chairman and chief executive Franklin D. Raines told the executives at the meeting in Carlsbad, Calif.
"Lenders are our only customers," Mr. Raines said, according to a copy of his speech distributed by Fannie the day after he spoke. "Fannie Mae is committed to your profitability."
Freddie Mac president David Glenn made similar statements in his speech, but a copy of his remarks was not available, a spokeswoman said.
The speeches by the leaders of the government-sponsored enterprises came amid mounting concern by lenders about the influence of Fannie and Freddie.
Lenders and mortgage insurers have formed a group, the Competitive Consumer Lending Coalition, aimed at curbing Fannie and Freddie's forays into mortgage insurance and other lending-related products, and loosening their stranglehold on the secondary market.
Paul Reid, executive vice president of the Mortgage Bankers Association, said from the conference during a telephone interview that he "applauded the dialogue" that Freddie and Fannie are undertaking with lenders and the association.
He added, though, that one of the "greatest areas of concern" of mortgage lenders is the profit level "up and down the food chain." Another, he said, is "where technology initiatives will be taken by the GSEs."
Mr. Raines commended MBA president Donald Lange for appearing at Fannie's biennial investors' conference and reassuring the participants that the relationship between lenders and Fannie Mae is a strong one.
Lenders have expressed concern that Fannie and Freddie are trying to cut out the middleman and let brokers make loans through the enterprises' automated underwriting systems.
Brokers, in fact, originated 70% of all home loans in 1998, according to a study by Wholesale Access, a Columbia, Md., research firm. In 1987, they originated just 20%.
Mr. Raines conceded that the mortgage industry has changed in recent years and that the friction between Fannie and Freddie, on one hand, and lenders has grown.
"I would fool no one if I asserted that there are no issues that threaten to divide us in this industry," he said, citing the battle for control of technology and the growing presence of mortgage brokers.
But "Fannie Mae does not compete with lenders in the parts of the mortgage business that produce your revenues," Mr. Raines said. "Where you are, we're not."
According to Mr. Raines, Fannie and Freddie make less than 1% of the industry's revenues from mortgage originations and sales, less than 1% of revenues from servicing, and just 8% of revenues from cash-flow administration.
In addition, neither enterprise dominates when it comes to managing credit risk or interest rate risk, Mr. Raines said. "Overall, Fannie Mae collects only 6% of the total revenue generated in the mortgage finance market," he said.
Some at the conference, declining to be identified, said they found Mr. Raines' presentation unconvincing, in part because it focused on revenues rather than profits.