Monday, March 31, 2008

Summers on the GSEs

Larry opines on Fannie and Freddie:

These institutions’ viability with anything like their current operating model depends on the implicit federal guarantee of their several trillion dollars of liabilities. It is appropriate at a time of crisis in the mortgage markets that they become, as their regulator put it last week, the “lender of first, last and every resort”.

It is not appropriate that their shareholders’ “heads I win, tails you lose” bet with the taxpayer be expanded for this purpose. Given their past and prospective losses, their regulator – supported by the Treasury, the Fed and, if necessary, Congress – should insist that they stop paying dividends and raise capital promptly and substantially as they expand their lending.