According to Bloomberg.com, former US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson told a number of Wall Street executives in advance that the government was planning on Taking Control of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. This information, reportedly delivered to them at the Eton Park Capital Management LP offices on July 21, 2008 when Paulson was still in office, came just one day after he told the New York Times that the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve were inspecting both mortgage giants’ books and that he expected that this would give the markets a sign of confidence.
There were about a dozen people present at the Eton Park gathering, including the hedge fund’s founder Eric Mindich, at least five former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. alumni, Lone Pine Capital LLC founder Stephen Mandel, Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC’s Daniel Och, TPG-Axon Capital Management LP’s Dinakar Singh, Kynikos Associates Ltd.’s James Chanos, GSO Capital Partners LP co-founder Bennett Goodman, Evercore Partners Inc.’s Roger Altman, and Quadrangle Group LLC co-founder Steven Rattner.
Paulson reportedly spoke about placing Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae into “conservatorship,” which would then allow the firms to stay in business. He said that the two government-sponsored enterprises’ stock, as well as numerous classes of preferred stock, would be eliminated. One fund manager who was there that day said he was surprised at Paulson’s wiliness to reveal such details.
Paulson did not do anything illegal when he gave out this insider information. However, any of the executives who were there today could have traded on this inside information. Whether anyone did is a mystery, seeing as firm-specific short stock sales cannot be tracked with public documents.
The US government seized Frannie and Freddie a couple of weeks after the Eton Park gathering and control of the firms was handed over to the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
At the time, Paulson said that the failure of Freddie and Fannie was not an option—considering that over $5 trillion in mortgage-backed securities and debt that the two of them had issued belonged to central banks and other investors throughout the world.
Last year, the Los Angeles Times reported that taxpayer loss from the government takeover could go as high as almost $400 billion. The FHFA said it was looking to offset some of this by getting billions of dollars back from banks that sold Fannie and Freddie bad loans. By September of 2010—two years after the seizure—the cost of the bailouts had already hit $148.2 million and concerns arose when the Obama Administration announced that it was raising the $400 billion cap on the government’s commitment to the two mortgage giants through 2012.
Our securities fraud lawyers represent clients though sustained severe losses when the housing market collapsed. Unfortunately, broker misconduct contributed to a number of these losses.
How Paulson Gave Hedge Funds Advance Word of Fannie Mae Rescue, Bloomberg.com, November 29, 2011
Losses from Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac seizures may near $400 billion, Los Angeles Times, September 16, 2011
U.S. Seizes Mortgage Giants, Wall Street Journal, September 8, 2008
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MF Global Shortfall May Be More than $1.2B, Says Trustee, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, November 26, 2011
Bonds Defeat Stocks For the First Time Since Prior to the Civil War, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, November 26, 2011
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