Newsletter: November 2019

November 8, 2019

CONGRATS TO THE NATS! While the baseball season has officially ended, housing finance reform still has a few innings left in the game. On Monday, National Mortgage News reported on U.S. Mortgage Insurers’ (USMI) release of new details on the growing mortgage insurance credit risk transfer (MI CRT) market. USMI President Lindsey Johnson also spoke about innovative MI CRT on a panel at the Structured Finance Association’s (SFA) Residential Finance Symposium. On the housing finance reform front, Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) Director Mark Calabria said that he is currently in negotiations with the Treasury Department to amend the Preferred Stock Purchase Agreements (PSPAs). He also spoke at an event hosted by the American Action Forum (AAF), where he was followed by a panel discussion on housing finance reform. Last week, FHFA released its 2019 Strategic Plan and 2020 Scorecard for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (“the GSEs”). This comes following several recent comments by Director Calabria reiterating the agency’s commitment to responsibly ending the GSEs’ conservatorships. In mid-October, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) applauded the direction of FHFA under Director Calabria’s leadership. Lastly, we’re seeing more movement coming with the nomination of Brian Montgomery as Deputy Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in early October.

Despite a busy month, there’s still plenty to look forward to at the #NEXTDC19 conference on November 18 and 19, which will bring policy experts together and create a great stage for lively discussions on the future of housing policy. Most importantly, ahead of the Veterans Day holiday, we want to thank and recognize all of the veterans who have bravely served in the United States Armed Forces. We are grateful for your service. 

USMI announces details on MI Credit Risk Transfer. On November 4, USMI announced that private MI companies transferred nearly $34 billion in risk on nearly $1.3 trillion of insurance-in-force from 2015 to 2019 to the global reinsurance and capital markets. USMI released details on the development and growth of the MI CRT market, which outlines the types of structures being used by the industry to transfer risk to reduce volatility and exposure of mortgage credit risk within the mortgage finance system, including to the GSEs, and therefore taxpayers. It also finds that active adoption of CRT by private mortgage insurers has transformed the industry to better insulate it from cyclical mortgage markets and enhanced MIs’ ability to be more stable, long-term managers and distributors of credit risk.

USMI President Lindsey Johnson spoke to MI CRT on a panel at the SFA’s Residential Finance Symposium. She also spoke with National Mortgage News on the innovative ways private MI is now actively managing mortgage credit risk. Johnson stated that in recent years mortgage insurers are not just participating in GSE CRT transactions, but also distributing their own risk through MI CRT.

AAF hosts panel discussion on housing finance reform. On November 6, AAF hosted a panel titled, “Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: What’s Next?” Speakers included FHFA Director Mark Calabria; Dr. Norbert Michel, Director of the Center for Data Analysis at the Heritage Foundation; Dr. Michael Stegman, Senior Fellow of the Housing Finance Program at the Milken Institute Center for Financial Markets; and Thomas Wade, Director of Financial Services Policy at AAF. The panel was moderated by CNN’s senior economics writer, Donna Borak. The panel discussed the Treasury Department’s and HUD’s GSE Reform Plans, FHFA’s and Treasury’s actions to allow for the recapitalization of the GSEs, and additional reform initiatives by the Administration.

FHFA releases new Strategic Plan and Scorecard for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. On October 28, FHFA released its 2019 Strategic Plan and 2020 Scorecard, detailing the near-term future for the GSEs. In the Strategic Plan, FHFA provided a roadmap on how the GSEs will fulfill their statutory missions and maintain their focus on safety and soundness while preparing for what the FHFA calls “a responsible end to the conservatorships.” The 2020 Scorecard details how the GSEs will remain accountable for “the effective implementation of the Strategic Plan in the coming year.” Both documents outlined three key goals: (1) foster competitive, liquid, efficient, and resilient (CLEAR) national housing finance markets that support sustainable homeownership and affordable rental housing; (2) operate in a safe and sound manner appropriate for entities in conservatorships; and (3) prepare for their eventual exit from conservatorships.

In FHFA’s press release, Director Calabria said, “Our nation’s mortgage finance system is in urgent need of reform. The vision for reform articulated in the Strategic Plan and advanced in the Scorecard will serve borrowers and renters by preserving mortgage credit availability, protect taxpayers by ensuring Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can withstand an economic downturn, and support a strong and resilient secondary mortgage market.”

FHFA intensely focused on the GSEs exiting conservatorship. At a meeting with reporters on October 31, Director Calabria noted that he is not giving Fannie and Freddie an easy pass. “I’ll certainly say I have yet to meet anybody who wants to get out of conservatorship as much as Fannie and Freddie do. But certainly, what you’ve been seeing over the last few years is not the kind of day-to-day behavior that you would expect from companies that are in conservatorship.”

Earlier that week, Director Calabria gave a keynote speech at the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Annual Convention in Austin, TX, and explained that after just one quarter of capital retention where Fannie and Freddie profits weren’t swept to Treasury, the companies doubled their capital buffers. “Fannie and Freddie will move forward thoughtfully, but this does not mean moving slowly.” But as exiting the conservatorship moves closer, Director Calabria explained he will ensure that it is done right. “I will not end the conservatorship unless I am confident that once Fannie and Freddie leave, they will never have to return.”

CAGW applauds FHFA’s new leadership. On October 16, CAGW wrote that “Mark Calabria is moving FHFA in a new direction and making taxpayers his top priority.” CAGW provided several examples of Director Calabria’s work, including FHFA’s focus on building capital at the GSEs to protect taxpayers, revising the GSEs’ multifamily lending caps, and the termination of the GSEs’ Mortgage Servicing Rights (MSR) pilot program.  Regarding the MSR pilot, CAGW noted that FHFA should apply this logic to any other pilots that allow the GSEs to push into markets and engage in activities that are already thriving. It is promising that Director Calabria is reviewing all pilots and new activities that expand the GSEs’ market dominance and encourages the enterprises to expose taxpayers to additional risk.”

Nomination of Brian Montgomery as HUD Deputy Secretary. On October 8, HUD announced that Commissioner Montgomery had been nominated to serve as Deputy Secretary and the Senate Banking Committee will consider his nomination on November 20. Montgomery, who also serves as HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Housing and Federal Housing Commissioner, would manage the day-to-day operations of the agency and assist Secretary Carson in leading the department’s nearly 8,000 employees. USMI applauded the decision, noting “Commissioner Montgomery is a respected, seasoned mortgage finance expert, and his unique experience and past public service have been major assets to the FHA. His extensive background will allow him to immediately begin work on the most important issues facing the housing finance system.”

Upcoming events. The#NEXTDC19 conference is an event focused on delivering policy intel. On November 18 and 19, it will bring together the most influential housing policy leaders, mortgage lenders, and fintech firms.