Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac And The Credit Crisis Of 2008
by Barry Nielsen*,CFA* (Contact Author | Biography)
When the housing bubble of 2001-2007 burst, it caused a mortgage security meltdown. This contributed to a general credit crisis, which evolved into a worldwide financial crisis. Many critics have held the United States Congress - and its unwillingness to rein in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - responsible for the credit crisis. In this article, we'll examine the extent to which Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and their allies in Congress contributed to the largest financial and economic crisis since the Great Depression. (For background reading, see _What Caused The Great Depression_?)
A Brief History of Mortgage Markets
For most of the twentieth century, mortgage lending took place mostly at banks, thrifts, credit unions, and savings and loans. The most common type of mortgage was a fixed-rate mortgage and most of the financial institutions originating mortgages held the mortgages that they originated on their books.
Starting in 1968, when Fannie Mae was chartered by the U.S. Congress as a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE), and two years later when Freddie Mac was chartered as the same, things began to change quickly. (Fannie Mae was originally created in 1938, but until its privatization in 1968 it was a part of the U.S. government). Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac created a liquid secondary market for mortgages. This meant that financial institutions no longer had to hold onto the mortgages they originated, but could sell them into the secondary market shortly after origination. This in turn freed up their funds such that they could then make additional mortgages. (To learn more about secondary mortgages, see _Behind The Scenes Of Your Mortgage_.)
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had a positive influence on the mortgage market by increasing home ownership rates in the United States; however, as history has proved, allowing Fannie Mae and Freddie...