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The Federal Government’s Implied Guarantee of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s Obligations: Uncle Sam Will Pick Up the Tab

David J. Reiss, Brooklyn Law School

Abstract

This article provides the most comprehensive statutory analysis to date of the federal government’s implied guarantee of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s financial obligations. Fannie and Freddie together have $4.45 trillion in mortgage-related obligations. The magnitude of their obligations can only be understood in comparison to the amount of outstanding U.S. government debt -- $5.04 trillion. Given the ongoing meltdown of the residential mortgage market, it is important that the implied guarantee be understood for what it is, a contingent liability of the federal government. After explaining the nature of the implied guarantee and the risks that it poses, the article argues that Fannie and Freddie should be privatized and that the implied guarantee be terminated.

This article is timely both because of the spreading crisis in the mortgage markets and because Congress is currently considering legislation to increase regulation of Fannie and Freddie. Even if enacted, this legislation does not go nearly far enough to protect the American taxpayer from the consequences of having to bail out these two companies. And if the federal government were to fail to bail them out, the world’s financial markets will face a financial crisis that could easily dwarf the 1994 Mexican peso collapse, the 1997 East Asian “flu” and the 1998 Russian bond default, the last of which triggered the collapse of Long-Term Capital Management.

Suggested Citation

David J. Reiss. "The Federal Government’s Implied Guarantee of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s Obligations: Uncle Sam Will Pick Up the Tab" 42 Ga. L. Rev. 1019 42 (2008): 1019.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/david_reiss/1

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