The Corner

The Corruption Inside Fannie Mae

With Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac now under federal control, some people are paying attention not just to the housing market conditions involved in their downfall but also to the mismanagement and corruption that helped cripple the federally-backed mortgage companies.  A couple of years ago, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO) issued a devastating report on that corruption.  I wrote a story about it for NR, and it is now available on the website:

Fannie Mae is the biggest single source of money for mortgages in the United States. From 1998 to 2004, the years covered by the OFHEO investigation, it was headed by former Clinton budget director Franklin Raines, whose top management team included former Clinton Justice Department official Jamie Gorelick, sometimes mentioned as a future attorney general in a Democratic administration. During that period, the report says, Raines and his team grossly overstated Fannie Mae’s earnings — to the tune of $10.6 billion — for the purpose of paying themselves big bonuses. “By deliberately and intentionally manipulating accounting to hit earnings targets,” the report says, “senior management maximized the bonuses and other executive compensation they received, at the expense of shareholders”…

In doing so, the report says, Raines and his team steered Fannie Mae far afield from its original mission, transforming it from a stable business into a risky one…

Even though his salary never topped $1 million, Raines’s total compensation shot from $6.48 million in 1998 to $8.52 million in 1999, to $13.89 million in 2000, to $18.86 million in 2001, to $18.20 million in 2002, to $24.15 million in 2003, all on the strength of [earnings-per-share] bonuses. Investigators found that of the $90.12 million Raines was paid in that six-year period, more than $52 million came from EPS bonuses.

Gorelick’s situation was similar. OFHEO found that she took home $26.46 million in the period from 1998 to 2002 (she left in that year, so she wasn’t there for the entire period under investigation). Of that figure, nearly $15 million came from EPS bonuses.

Of course, it wasn’t legit. “Fannie Mae reported extremely smooth profit growth and hit announced targets for earnings per share precisely each quarter,” the OFHEO report says. “Those achievements were illusions deliberately and systematically created by [Fannie Mae’s] senior management with the aid of inappropriate accounting and improper earnings management.”

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