Tags: watt | fannie | freddie

WH Considers Rep. Watt to lead Fannie, Freddie

Saturday, 16 Mar 2013 10:29 AM

By Matthew Auerbach

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Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., is under consideration to lead the regulator of mortgage-finance firms Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, according to those familiar with the situation.

The Wall Street Journal reports the White House hasn't made a final decision as of yet but could announce its pick for director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees the two companies, as soon as next month.

If nominated and confirmed by the Senate, Watt would immediately become a major voice in regards to the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which own or guarantee half of all U.S. mortgages and were put under federal control in 2008 during the financial crisis.

Watt is a longtime member of the House Financial Services Committee, which oversees housing matters.

Watt has pressed for better access to mortgage loans for minority and low-income consumers.

In 2011, he told Timothy Geithner that a position paper outlining options for the mortgage-finance system placed too much emphasis on renting.

Later that year, Watt was among a small group of lawmakers on the financial-services panel who voted against a politically popular bill that would have lessened Fannie and Freddie executive salaries, saying that the move would have been “penalizing the wrong people” and would have risked a potential flight of qualified talent to other financial firms.

Watt is among many lawmakers from both parties who took campaign contributions from Fannie and Freddie before the companies were taken over by the government.

Picking Watt, who is African-American, could work in President Obama’s favor politically, as well.

It might soften criticism that Obama hasn't named enough minorities to administration posts.

This past week, the Congressional Black Caucus sent a letter to the White House voicing its concern that the Obama administration had yet to name an African-American to a top post for his second term.

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