This is going back a ways but it looks like Fannie Mae was run to maximize executive bonuses.
In the cookie-jar ploy, Fannie set aside an artificially large cash reserve. And — presto — in any quarter its managers could reach into that jar to compensate for poor results or add to it to dampen good ones. This ploy, according to Ofheo, gave Fannie “inordinate flexibility” in reporting the amount of income or expenses over reporting periods.
This flexibility also gave Fannie the ability to manipulate earnings to hit — within pennies — target numbers for executive bonuses. Ofheo details an example from 1998, the year the Russian financial crisis sent interest rates tumbling. Lower rates caused a lot of mortgage holders to prepay their existing home mortgages. And Fannie was suddenly facing an estimated expense of $400 million.
Well, in its wisdom, Fannie decided to recognize only $200 million, deferring the other half. That allowed Fannie’s executives — whose bonus plan is linked to earnings-per-share — to meet the target for maximum bonus payouts. The target EPS for maximum payout was $3.23 and Fannie reported exactly . . . $3.2309. This bull’s-eye was worth $1.932 million to then-CEO James Johnson, $1.19 million to then-CEO-designate Franklin Raines, and $779,625 to then-Vice Chairman Jamie Gorelick.