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Document Type

Case Studies

Abstract

As the housing crisis escalated during the second half of 2007, two government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs), the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac), occupied an increasingly central role in the secondary mortgage market, purchasing a greater percentage of new mortgages as private securitization rapidly contracted. As their importance in this market grew, the two GSEs also began to suffer billion-dollar losses, inciting concerns that they might not be able to stay solvent throughout the remainder of the crisis. On September 6, 2008, fearing the systemic consequences of the two firms’ failures, the GSEs’ new regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), took both entities into indefinite conservatorship as one step of a four-part rescue of the GSEs, which included the US Treasury’s establishment of a GSE mortgage-backed securities (MBS) purchase program (GSE MBS Program). This case examines the GSE MBS Program, pursuant to which Treasury purchased $225 billion in GSE MBS in the open market, and finds it difficult to quantify the program’s exact impact given the simultaneous implementation of other measures for the GSEs as well as the Federal Reserve’s later adoption of its own MBS purchase program.

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