Rolf Englund IntCom internetional
"What do you do with the current preferred shares?"
It is not just about putting $25 to $50 billion into Fannie and Freddie (assuming that would be enough).
JP Morgan Chase just wrote down $600 million in Fannie and Freddie preferred shares this week. Many other banks will be doing so as well. As noted last week, there are banks that have more than 20% of their capital base in these shares. In today's current environment, do we want to deal with the costs to the FDIC of even more failed banks? And even if you don't force a bank into outright failure, you at best limit its ability to function as an efficient market lending agency to local businesses and consumers.
But you can't just say, "We will cover the preferred shares in banks but not in personal accounts or in the accounts of other institutions." It is an all or nothing proposition. A $36 billion proposition. It is a potential Hobson's choice. Wipe out the preferreds or wipe out the shareholders of a lot of banks and have the FDIC pick up the costs. By the way, Congress and bank regulators encouraged banks to buy preferred shares by giving them special status and tax breaks.
Critics have said that Fannie and Freddie were nothing but hedge funds with an implicit government guarantee. This is an insult to hedge funds. Hedge funds don't pay hundreds of millions in campaign contributions so that they can risk taxpayer dollars, prop up their profits, and pay huge bonuses to executives. They risk their own capital with no safety net.
Fannie and Freddie are banks that are levered between 40 and 50 times. I can think of two hedge funds, Carlyle Capital and Long Term Capital Management, that had leverage at those levels. They both went bankrupt, as will any such levered business.