On September 6, 2008, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) placed the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) into conservatorships. FHFA took this step after concern developed that the deteriorating financial condition of the two government-sponsored enterprises (GSE), which had about $5.4 trillion in combined financial obligations, threatened the stability of financial markets. Since then, the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) has provided financial support to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the enterprises) to help stabilize their financial condition and help ensure their ability to continue to support housing finance. As of September 2010, Treasury had provided about $150 billion in capital contributions to support the enterprises, and the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the total cost to taxpayers could be nearly $400 billion over a 10-year period. In recent months, Congress and the administration have been considering a variety of proposals to reform the enterprises in order to help ensure their safety and soundness and the effectiveness of the U.S. housing finance system. We issued a report under the Comptroller General's authority on structural reform options for the enterprises in September 2009 and, on the basis of subsequent congressional interest, we conducted this work as a follow-up effort, also under the Comptroller General's authority. This letter summarizes briefings that we provided to the staffs of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs and the House Financial Services Committee. Our objectives were to (1) identify the key characteristics of the cooperative model, (2) discuss the cooperative model's potential role as part of any long-term structural reform option for the enterprises, (3) discuss some likely advantages and disadvantages of the cooperative model as a potential reform option for the enterprises, and (4) identify some of the key decisions that Congress and the administration would have to make to initiate overall structural reform for the enterprises and design an effective transition process.
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