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Fannie Mae Seeks $15 Billion More in Aid

Friday, 06 Nov 2009 09:21 AM

WASHINGTON -- Fannie Mae is asking for an additional $15 billion in government aid after posting another big loss in the third quarter as the taxpayer bill from the housing market bust keeps rising.

The government-controlled company continued to see a dramatic surge of borrowers fall behind as the unemployment rate climbs. At the end of last month, about 4.7 percent of Fannie Mae's borrowers had missed at least three payments.

That's nearly triple last year's level. And the problem is worse in Florida and Nevada, where more than 11 percent of Fannie's loans are in serious trouble.

Seized by federal regulators 14 months ago, the problems at Fannie Mae and sibling company Freddie Mac have proven far worse than most experts had foreseen. Fannie Mae's request Thursday will bring the tab for rescuing both companies to about $111 billion. The government has promised up to $400 billion in assistance.

"There is significant uncertainty regarding the future of our business, including whether we will continue to exist, and we expect this uncertainty to continue," Fannie Mae said.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac play a vital role in the mortgage market by purchasing loans from banks and selling them to investors. Together, Fannie and Freddie own or guarantee almost 31 million home loans worth about $5.5 trillion. That's about half of all mortgages.

The two companies lowered their standards for borrowers during the real estate boom and are reeling from the consequences. High-risk loans, now defaulting at a record pace, have come back to haunt the companies. Worse still, the recession is causing formerly reliable homeowners with good credit to default.

Fannie Mae posted a quarterly loss of $19.76 billion, or $3.47 per share. The loss includes $883 million in dividends paid to the Treasury Department and compares with a loss of $29.41 billion, or $13 per share, in the year-ago period.

The results were driven by $22 billion in credit losses as the company continued to build its reserves for sour mortgages.

Thursday's request for financial aid — Fannie Mae's fourth — brings the company's total to about $60 billion.

To help reduce the number of homeowners evicted by foreclosure, Fannie Mae announced Thursday it would give some borrowers on the verge of foreclosure the option of renting their homes for a year.

The new "Deed for Lease" program will allow homeowners to transfer title to Fannie Mae and sign a one-year lease, with potential month-to-month extensions after that. It also helps save money because the lender does not need to complete the often lengthy and time-consuming foreclosure process.

The program helps "eliminate some of the uncertainty of foreclosure, keeps families and tenants in their homes during a transitional period, and helps to stabilize neighborhoods and communities," Jay Ryan, a Fannie Mae vice president, said in a statement.

Critics, however, say the company is simply gambling that the properties will eventually sell for a higher price.

"Taxpayers are now going to own all these houses that (Fannie Mae) should have unloaded," said Peter Schiff, president of Euro Pacific Capital in Darien, Conn. "It's going to cost a fortune."

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WASHINGTON -- Fannie Mae is asking for an additional $15 billion in government aid after posting another big loss in the third quarter as the taxpayer bill from the housing market bust keeps rising.The government-controlled company continued to see a dramatic surge of...
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2009-21-06
Friday, 06 Nov 2009 09:21 AM
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