Hoping to bolster investor confidence, Fannie Mae Chief Executive Officer Daniel Mudd has replaced three executives as the mortgage finance...
WASHINGTON — Hoping to bolster investor confidence, Fannie Mae Chief Executive Officer Daniel Mudd has replaced three executives as the mortgage finance company aims to cope with mounting losses from the mortgage crisis.
Fannie Mae Chief Financial Officer Stephen Swad is leaving to “pursue other opportunities” in the private equity business. He is being replaced by David Hisey, formerly the company’s senior vice president and controller.
Fannie named Peter Niculescu as chief business officer, replacing the retiring Robert Levin.
Michael Shaw is taking over as chief risk officer for Enrico Dallavecchia, who is also leaving the company.
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Meanwhile, shares of Fannie Mae and fellow mortgage giant Freddie Mac climbed for a third straight day, as investors appeared less certain that a government bailout of the two troubled companies will happen anytime soon.
The mortgage finance companies saw their stock prices plummet last week as fears mounted they would soon need government support and that any bailout would leave stockholders in the lurch.
The government-sponsored companies hold or guarantee half the U.S. mortgage debt and are considered crucial to the mortgage market’s continued operation.
But shares of both have climbed back in recent days, as analysts have cast doubt on whether any government rescue is truly inevitable or imminent.
Fannie shares rose 86 cents, or 15.3 percent, to close at $6.48, while Freddie advanced 78 cents, or 19.7 percent, to $4.75.
Merrill Lynch analyst Kenneth Bruce wrote in a research note Wednesday that speculation about an infusion of capital by the U.S. government is “somewhat premature” as Fannie and Freddie’s financial cushion against losses won’t be depleted “for several quarters.” Investors “are overly discounting a possible catastrophic event,” he wrote.
Similarly, Citigroup analyst Bradley Ball said in a research note Monday that Fannie and Freddie still have options despite their steep stock declines in recent weeks, adding that “we are not convinced that (the government) needs to take any action over the near term.”
Fannie Mae completed a $2 billion sale of short-term debt on Wednesday, two days after Freddie Mac sold the same amount of debt.
Large money market funds, which are major buyers of Fannie and Freddie’s short-term debt, are still comfortable holding it, said Peter Crane, president of Crane Data, which tracks money market mutual funds.
“Most managers are taking the position that it would unthinkable to imagine a scenario where (the government) wouldn’t back the debt,” he said.
Other analysts, however, continue to express a gloomier outlook. Peter Schiff, president of Euro Pacific Capital in Darien, Conn., a longtime bearish investor, predicts that the companies’ losses could eventually hit $1 trillion or more as housing prices fall far further than most analysts expect.
“The end result is probably going to be that they go bankrupt and the government nationalizes the function,” Schiff said. “There’s no way they can survive.”
Concern also has been growing that a government rescue of Fannie and Freddie could be costly for scores of investment, banking and insurance companies that hold billions of dollars in their preferred shares. The two companies had nearly $36 billion in preferred shares outstanding as of June 30, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Banks that could suffer the most include Gateway Financial Holdings Inc., Midwest Banc Holdings Inc., Financial Institutions Inc., Westamerica Bancorp. and Sovereign Bancorp Inc., analysts at Friedman, Billings Ramsey said in a research note today.
Fannie Mae held $47 billion in “core capital” — the main measurement of the company’s ability to withstand losses — as of June 30, $9.4 billion above government requirements. Freddie Mac’s $37.1 billion in core capital was $2.7 billion more than government-required levels.
Still, many investors believe that cushion could wither away due to soaring losses from bad mortgages.
If the companies’ capital levels fall too much, they could be forced by their government regulator to suspend dividend payments to preferred shareholders, said Brian Harris, a senior vice president at Moody’s Investors Service, which last week lowered Fannie and Freddie’s preferred stock ratings to near-junk status.
Still, the companies may be able to avoid that by raising capital from investors or reducing the size of their balance sheet by limiting mortgage acquisitions, he said.