Steve Mnuchin, the former Goldman Sachs partner, hedge-fund financier and Trump-for-President fundraising leader who Trump confirmed today is his choice for Treasury secretary, endorsed stands among those Republicans who want to turn Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac back into private companies, eight years after President Bush effectively nationalized them to keep them from failing in the credit crisis.
Mnuchin called Trump's broad roads and project-spending proposal "a big priority of this administration. We need to make sure that our infrastructure is built for the 21st century, that we have roads and bridges and power grids and infrastructure that support this country, and that's going to be a big focus," Mnuchin told reporters gathered at Trump Tower.
Frank Rapaport, a Berwyn lawyer who's worked hard for "public-private" funding plans, cheered Mnuchin's comments, though he noted Trump and Mnuchin have yet to detail how to pay for billions in potential improvements.
"I think we're going to look a lot of different things. Some public/private partnerships, different types of things we're [looking] at, but it's all going to be a big priority," Mnuchin added, according to Politico.
As to taxpayer-backed home loans: "We gotta get Fannie and Freddie out of government ownership," Mnuchin told Fox Business Networks this morning, according to a transcript forwarded by Delaware and Manhattan investor Gary Hindes. "In our Administration it's right up there in the list of the top 10 things we're going to get done, and we'll get it done fast."
Fannie and Freddie, and the "implied" government guarantees of their financing that became real as they lost many billions in the credit crisis(ultimately regaining some from Bank of America, Wells Fargo and other lenders who made so many bad loans), have long been defended by construction and real estate interests.
Even when Fannie and Freddie became profitable again, the Obama administration declined to either fully privatize the companies, or push a long-term reorganization plan.
That's due partly to the complex politics of the mortgage and construction industries. Real estate people in the past worried that an all-private U.S. home mortgage market will be dominated by lenders who demand bigger down payments and higher interest rates, reducing homeownership and construction and slowing the economy.
But Mnuchin says the Big Two, under government control, are too often in the way: "In many cases (Fannie and Freddie) displace private lending in the mortgage markets. And we need these entities that will be safe. So let me just be clear we’ll make sure that when they’re restructured they’re absolutely safe and they don’t get taken over again. But we gotta get them out of government control.”
That pleases Hindes. Fannie and Freddie are necessary to the survival of the low-rate, 30-year home loan -- without which "the value of every house in America drops by more than 30 percent," in Hindes estimate.
The private sector "blew up" the mortgage market, he acknowledged. But under government tutelage Fannie and Freddie "have been reformed. They aren't arbitraging (rates and loans) anymore. They are back to their basic business." Privatizing the pair would send a signal that would be "very bullish for housing, construction and employment."
Hindes is also among the Fannie and Freddie shareholders who contend the financing giants need not have been taken over in the first place. He says they improperly handed billions in profits to the U.S. Treasury instead of giving the money to private investors; and is among those suing to get their billions back.