The last post – which was incredibly difficult to write – received remarkably little comment – and almost no feedback. So I am going to close the modelling sequence early – and write a few posts about the politics of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as standalones. Almost all the proposals for “reform” seem to leave most of the credit risks with the government and give much benefit to Wall Street bankers. That includes the original proposals implicit when Paulson – the once King of Wall Street – put them into conservatorship. I will later expose those for the vacuous positions that they are. I want to write the politics sequence so you do not have to have closely read the modelling sequence – because I know these will appeal to different audiences.
But for now I will note that most the well-informed comment has indicated that I have underplayed the role that tax losses have played in putting Fannie and Freddie into the position they are. Certainty as to their future will enable them to write back the charges against tax assets they have taken. 18 months of profitability (which they will have) plus some certainty to the future will allow approximately 30 plus billion dollar write backs at both GSEs. That will leave the GSEs with positive net worth (and able to repay government loans) in time for the 2012 election. I will leave that to the politics sequence.
I said in the first post that I will close with a comment that was once left on my blog by “Bondinvestor”. This was the only comment I have ever censored because it stole my thunder… here it is… [with annotations in square brackets and blue colour]. I pleaded on the blog for Bondinvestor to contact me – but with not much luck. Bondinvestor summarises my arguments quite well – though I think the same applies to Fannie Mae – albeit with less force.
You should take a deeper look at FRE. it was a very well run company before the crisis - and not just on the portfolio side. [I was – well before Bondinvestor left this comment.]
Look at their credit statistics. the 90+ delinquencies are high relative to history, but far below the rest of the industry - as well as Fannie Mae. [I noted this in Part III.]
The tragedy at Freddie is that they purchased non-agency AAA MBS in an attempt to meet their housing sub-goals. [I noted in Part II that the losses came primarily from the Private Label Securities.] Their calculus was that the inherent subordination in the AAA's would protect them in a credit Armageddon. [Well we got credit Armageddon and the Private Label Securities business did cause huge losses for the GSEs.]
What is fascinating about FRE is that the jury is still out on what the actual realized losses in their non-agency book will be. The AAA private label pass throughs that the agencies bought were specially designed for them. The balances were all conforming; the pools had lower CA/FL concentration than the rest of the non-agency universe; and - most interestingly - the loans underlying the GSE's AAA's were segmented from the AAA's that were sold into the public market, though they shared the same subordinate tranches. what this means is that catastrophic losses in the Type II bonds do not necessarily imply catastrophic losses in the Type I bonds (the GSE-eligible AAA's). [Analysing this was the point of Part IX. They will incur losses – just nothing like as bad as they provided for.]
If you go look at remit reports, you'll see that the delinquencies underlying the agency-eligible bonds are much lower than the DQ's underlying the non-agency bonds. [Actually I have done so – and whilst the DQs are lower in the agency-eligible pools they are not much lower. The biggest advantage that the agency eligible pools have going for them is that they retain far more excess collateral against their delinquencies.]
Now, part of the problem is that the atrocious performance of the non-agency pools will eat up the subordinate tranches, thereby depriving the GSE-bonds of their fair share of the enhancement. [They have almost entirely done so in the series I analysed in Part IX] but, given the relative performance of the loans underlying the GSE bonds, it may not matter. [It will matter with respect to the series that I have looked at – but the excess protection in the agency-eligble pools means that the GSE losses will be under half the losses incurred by the AAA strips of the non-agency eligible pools – in many cases less than 15 percent of the normal AAA losses.]
Anyway, all this is a very long winded way of saying that the actual realized losses in Freddie's $150B portfolio of private label MBS may not approach anything like the huge mark they have taken on this book (and which destroyed their capital base in the early innings of the credit cycle). [Freddie thinks about 30 billion will reverse as described in Part IX – I think it will be less – but I am having a very sophisticated conversation with one reader who thinks it will be more – and provides modelling to prove his points… I think I could be twisted to agree with him – and will put up a technical post if we (jointly) ever get around to writing it…]
I know folks inside FRE who think that the "shadow equity" that comes back on the balance sheet as the PLS portfolio pays down is on the order of $70B. that is more than enough to retire the convertible preferred note the government took as part of the conservatorship. [I know no such folks. I worked this out on my own. But I think the shadow equity is closer to 50 billion – say 25 billion that will reverse on the private label securities and the other temporary impairment plus about 30 billion in tax losses but less the 10 billion or so more reserves I think they need to take over time on the traditional business.]
Now, none of this is to say the losses on the guaranty book won't be large. but the company discloses enough information to come up with a reasonable estimate of what they could be. You just have to look at the 06/07 vintage curves and make a judgment about how long it will take those books to season. the realized cumulative losses will most likely be somewhere between $30 and $50B. they already have a loan loss reserve of $22B. so they have some wood to chop, but it's not an egregious amount. [Well I did that modelling in Part VI. I agree with the numbers Bondinvestor comes up with – actually I think the end losses will be less.]
A much bigger issue for the company than the actual credit losses is the terms of the senior convertible preferred. If the coupon is 10% if paid in cash, and 12% if they take the PIK option. That's $5B a year after tax and it wipes out all of the normalized profits of the enterprise. it's a far more egregious rate than any of the other pieces of paper the government bought in the midst of the crisis, and it was put there by the bush admin to prevent the GSE's from organically rebuilding their capital bases. [Again I agree – the object of the conservatorship terms were to wipe Fannie and Freddie out – the takeover was political in execution. However the current income of Fannie and Freddie is way above trend – and this will not be a problem if the high revenue is sustained.]
FRE preferreds trade at 1-3 cents on the dollar. they are basically warrants on the ability of the company to one day retire the government note. with a payoff function of 100x, i think it's a speculation worth taking. [They trade higher now – but I was buying at these prices.]
In summary – working through my models I will be wrong if
(a) the running income halves
(b) the end losses are higher than I thought and
(c) the “temporary impairments” – particularly at Freddie Mac turn out to be “other than temporary”.
On those I am most insecure on the running income as I discussed in Part V – but the running income is already running far faster than I anticipated when originally buying these securities.
The GSE takeover will wind up costing government surprisingly little. I think it will wind up being profitable. The future of the GSEs is not determined by their insolvency. That I think, time will take care of. It is determined by politics.
I will do a political series later – and they will have a wider audience. Wall Street wants to carve the GSE business up for the benefit of Goldman Sachs et al. The Wall Street political lobby is very effective and the terms of the GSE conservatorship prevent the GSEs from lobbying on their own behalf – which means that unless we are careful the Wall Street lobby will get what Wall Street wants. But that is for future political debate – and the Obama administration has sensibly put off decisions as to the GSE future until next year – and ideally they will put it off until even later.
I hope I have achieved what I wanted to with this series – which is to stop the model-free GSE bashing that had become the popular line of thought of the press and the blogosphere. Later I hope to take on the vested self interest behind that GSE bashing – showing them (especially the Mortgage Bankers Association) for the egregious self-interested participants that they are.