No Comment

It's the subject that no one wants to talk about: reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

As the first anniversary of the government takeover passed last week, virtually no one with any authority over Fannie or Freddie wanted to talk about what would happen next.

Responding to a question at a press briefing on Thursday, a Treasury Department official said the issue is "more of next year's business than this year's."

The Obama administration has said it will propose reforms to Fannie and Freddie in February.

Even Fannie's new chief executive, Mike Williams, demurred in a speech marking the conservatorship's first anniversary.

"Down the road, if asked, we would be glad to share what we know, what we've learned about the housing and mortgage finance markets, especially during this crisis," he told the Exchequer Club. "At the moment, though, our focus is really on the front lines of the housing crisis — helping to get housing back on track, and doing our part for the economic recovery of the nation."

In a letter that was released on Thursday, James Lockhart, the former director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, said policymakers should consider the broader issue of how housing should be financed before tackling Fannie and Freddie.

"That includes determining the most appropriate roles for private- and public-sector entities, competition and competitiveness, risks and risk management," he wrote in a letter to the Government Accountability Office on Aug. 19, when he was still running the Finance Agency.

Indeed, the GAO is apparently the only voice in Washington willing to join the debate. Without any prodding from Congress, the government watchdog agency released a report that analyzed various options.

 

Pinning Him Down

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's resume is a matter of public record, but that hasn't stopped lawmakers from trying to add to it.

During some recent hearings, lawmakers have accused Geithner of being a former investment banker (not true). By last week, lawmakers were going even further. At a Congressional Oversight Panel hearing, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, grilled the secretary about the bankruptcy of the General Motors.

Panel member Damon Silvers came to the secretary's rescue, saying Hensarling was under the misapprehension Geithner was a bankruptcy judge.

"Last time you asked me if I was an investment banker and I said no then, but I've also never been a bankruptcy judge," Geithner said.

Silvers actually disagreed that Geithner had never been a banker, arguing that serving as the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York is essentially the same thing. Geithner said that was stretching the definition of "banker."

 

N.Y. Fed's Close-Up

There's good news and bad for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York after The New York Times reported that a sequel is in the works to Oliver Stone's 1987 hit "Wall Street."

The good news is that Stone has said the bank will have a prominent role in the new film. The bad news is that the director probably doesn't have a sympathetic view of the New York Fed and has been known to play it loose with facts.

According to the paper, Stone finally caved in to pressure to make "Wall Street 2" because the financial crisis was so momentous. The movie will feature its predecessor's antihero Gordon Gekko as he comes out of jail into a changed world.

Gone are the days when hedge fund barons and rogue investors are the bad guys. This time Gekko will discover that staid commercial banks share major responsibility for the crisis, the Times said.

Though it is easy to laugh off the threat of a movie, films have a way of creating a lasting image for an industry. Gekko's "greed is good" mantra has come to define Wall Street, and it's a fair bet Stone will not make bankers, or the New York Fed, come off like Jimmy Stewart.

 

RMA Appointees

The Risk Management Association has named Malcolm Griggs its chairman. Griggs, managing director of Morgan Stanley, is a former chairman of the RMA's Enterprise Risk Management Council.

The RMA also elected Davis Coxon, the president and CEO of RockBridge Commercial Bank in Atlanta, as its vice chairman. Coxon has been chairman of the RMA's Community Bank Council and chairman of the group's Atlanta chapter. Both Griggs and Coxon began their terms Sept. 1.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.