As the crisis worsens for mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is insisting that any potential government rescue plan not benefit the companies’ shareholders, according to people familiar with the matter.
The two stockholder-owned, government-sponsored companies, whose operations are vital to the functioning of the U.S. housing market, faced a severe crisis of confidence after a week in which their stocks each lost nearly half their value. On Friday, Freddie Mac finished the day at $7.75 a share, and Fannie Mae at $10.25.
The discussions at Treasury highlight the dilemma created by the financial crisis gripping the U.S: Some institutions are considered too big to fail, but propping them up could erode the market’s incentive to properly judge risk by offering investors a false sense of security.
After a week of near panic among shareholders of the two companies — and a stomach-churning day on Wall Street Friday — the next big test will come Monday when Freddie Mac is due to sell $3 billion of short-term debt. An unsuccessful sale could be a major blow to investor confidence. If the administration were to intervene, it could do so before markets opened that day, according to a person familiar with the deliberations.
It’s a quagmire.
ADDED: Discussion here.