Introduction to Special Issue: The Appropriate Role of Government in U.S. Mortgage Markets
The U.S. mortgage finance system was one of the focal points of the 2007-08 financial crisis, yet legislative decisions about the appropriate role of the federal government in the system remain unsettled. Policy deliberations have focused on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?the two enormous government-sponsored enterprises that were placed into federal conservatorship in September 2008. The two GSEs have long been the centerpieces of a mortgage finance system that relies on capital market financing of U.S. residential mortgages. This volume contains eight articles that touch on several key ...
Evaluating the Rescue of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
In September 2008, the U.S. government engineered a dramatic rescue of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, placing the two firms into conservatorship and committing billions of taxpayer dollars to stabilize their financial position. While these actions were characterized at the time as a temporary ?time out,? seven years later the firms remain in conservatorship and their ultimate fate is uncertain. In this post, we evaluate the success of the 2008 rescue on several key dimensions, drawing from our recent research article in the Journal of Economic Perspectives.
The Federal Home Loan Bank System: the lender of next-to-last resort?
The Federal Home Loan Bank (FHLB) System is a large, complex, and understudied government-sponsored liquidity facility that currently has more than $1 trillion in secured loans outstanding, mostly to commercial banks and thrifts. In this paper, we document the significant role played by the FHLB System at the onset of the ongoing financial crises and then provide evidence on the uses of these funds by the System's bank and thrift members. Next, we identify the trade-offs faced by member-borrowers when choosing between accessing the FHLB System or the Federal Reserve's Discount Window during ...
The rescue of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
We describe and evaluate the measures taken by the U.S. government to rescue Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in September 2008. We begin by outlining the business model of these two firms and their role in the U.S. housing finance system. Our focus then turns to the sources of financial distress that the firms experienced and the events that ultimately led the government to take action in an effort to stabilize housing and financial markets. We describe the various resolution options available to policymakers at the time and evaluate the success of the choice of conservatorship, and other actions ...
Fiscal Implications of the Federal Reserve’s Balance Sheet Normalization
In the wake of the global financial crisis, the Federal Reserve dramatically increased the size of its balance sheet?from about $900 billion at the end of 2007 to about $4.5 trillion today. At its September 2017 meeting, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) announced that?effective October 2017?it would initiate the balance sheet normalization program described in the June 2017 addendum to the FOMC?s Policy Normalization Principles and Plans.
Did Subprime Borrowers Drive the Housing Boom?
The role of subprime mortgage lending in the U.S. housing boom of the 2000s is hotly debated in academic literature. One prevailing narrative ascribes the unprecedented home price growth during the mid-2000s to an expansion in mortgage lending to subprime borrowers. This post, based on our recent working paper, “Villains or Scapegoats? The Role of Subprime Borrowers in Driving the U.S. Housing Boom,” presents evidence that is inconsistent with conventional wisdom. In particular, we show that the housing boom and the subprime boom occurred in different places.
Fiscal implications of the Federal Reserve's balance sheet normalization
The paper surveys the recent literature on the fiscal implications of central bank balance sheets, with a special focus on political economy issues. It then presents the results of simulations that describe the effects of different scenarios for the Federal Reserve's longer-run balance sheet on its earnings remittances to the U.S. Treasury and, more broadly, on the government's overall fiscal position. We find that reducing longer-run reserve balances from $2.3 trillion (roughly the current amount) to $1 trillion reduces the likelihood of posting a quarterly net loss in the future from 30 ...
Debt maturity, risk, and asymmetric information
We test the implications of Flannery's (1986) and Diamond's (1991) models concerning the effects of risk and asymmetric information in determining debt maturity, and we examine the overall importance of informational asymmetries in debt maturity choices. We employ data on over 6,000 commercial loans from 53 large U.S. banks. Our results for low-risk firms are consistent with the predictions of both theoretical models, but our findings for high-risk firms conflict with the predictions of Diamond's model and with much of the empirical literature. Our findings also suggest a strong quantitative ...
Federal Home Loan Bank advances and commercial bank portfolio composition
The primary mission of the 12 cooperatively owned Federal Home Loan Banks (FHLBs) is to provide their members financial products and services to assist and enhance member housing finance. In this paper, we consider the role of the FHLBs' traditional product--"advances," or collateralized loans to members--in stabilizing commercial bank members' residential mortgage lending activities. ; Our theoretical model shows that using membership criteria (such as a minimum of 10 percent of the portfolio being in mortgage-related assets) or using mortgage-related assets as collateral does not ensure ...