Wednesday, September 17, 2008

McCain out in front

Senator John McCain, who is no faux reformer, was way out in front in objecting to the manner in which business was conducted at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, (the quasi-private mortgage backers who the federal government bailed out to the tune of $200 billion last week.)

Here is McCain in the Congressional Record in May of 2006 warning that the federal government must scrutinize the practices of Fannie and Freddie more closely. Of course the beholden Beltway boys did nothing, killing the bill in question in committee. Special thanks to Rantburg for picking up this story.

Sen. John McCain [R-AZ]: "Mr. President, this week Fannie Mae's regulator reported that the company's quarterly reports of profit growth over the past few years were "illusions deliberately and systematically created" by the company's senior management, which resulted in a $10.6 billion accounting scandal.

The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight's report goes on to say that Fannie Mae employees deliberately and intentionally manipulated financial reports to hit earnings targets in order to trigger bonuses for senior executives. In the case of Franklin Raines, Fannie Mae's former chief executive officer, OFHEO's report shows that over half of Mr. Raines' compensation for the 6 years through 2003 was directly tied to meeting earnings targets. The report of financial misconduct at Fannie Mae echoes the deeply troubling $5 billion profit restatement at Freddie Mac.

The OFHEO report also states that Fannie Mae used its political power to lobby Congress in an effort to interfere with the regulator's examination of the company's accounting problems. This report comes some weeks after Freddie Mac paid a record $3.8 million fine in a settlement with the Federal Election Commission and restated lobbying disclosure reports from 2004 to 2005. These are entities that have demonstrated over and over again that they are deeply in need of reform.

For years I have been concerned about the regulatory structure that governs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac--known as Government-sponsored entities or GSEs--and the sheer magnitude of these companies and the role they play in the housing market. OFHEO's report this week does nothing to ease these concerns. In fact, the report does quite the contrary. OFHEO's report solidifies my view that the GSEs need to be reformed without delay.

I join as a cosponsor of the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005, S. 190, to underscore my support for quick passage of GSE regulatory reform legislation. If Congress does not act, American taxpayers will continue to be exposed to the enormous risk that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pose to the housing market, the overall financial system, and the economy as a whole.

I urge my colleagues to support swift action on this GSE reform legislation."

Unfortunately the bill died in committee.

S. 190 [109th]: Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005---Status: Dead

Last Action: Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Ordered to be amendmened.

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