Two mortgage banking trade groups that support the so-called “recap and release” of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac say they have not taken money from Wall Street hedge funds that have reportedly bankrolled a lobbying campaign in Washington focused on the same goals of bulking up the agencies’ capital reserves and freeing them from government conservatorship.
The Community Mortgage Lenders of America (CMLA) and the Community Home Lenders Association (CHLA) ultimately want the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) to play a major role in housing finance after they are reformed, but they are not associated in any way with the investor-driven lobbying effort, the trade group’s executive directors told Scotsman Guide News.
“We don’t get any funding at all, have never taken any money from any sort of hedge fund,” said CMLA Executive Director Glen Corso on Friday.
Recent articles in the Huffington Post and the Wall Street Journal reported that hedge funds and investors that bought Fannie and Freddie stock cheap during the downturn have intensified their lobbying efforts. According to a Wall Street Journal report, The Raben Group, a Washington lobbying firm, offered the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP), $25,000 to sign its name last year to an editorial supporting the recapitalization of the GSEs. NAHREP’s Executive Director Gary Acosta told the Wall Street Journal that the organization turned the offer down.
CHLA Executive Director Scott Olson said he has not been approached by any group associated with Fannie and Freddie’s investors.
“I myself and the staff of CHLA have not talked to the hedge funds or other stock investors, to anyone in that world, in over three years,” Olson said. “I did it three years ago when we were doing Johnson-Crapo [a GSE reform bill] to get their impression, and I have not even talked to anybody in that segment for three years, much less them having any influence on me.”
Earlier this week, CMLA and CHLA joined several progressive leaning organizations, such as the NAACP, in urging Fannie and Freddie’s regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, to end the profit sweeps from the institutions and also to allow the GSEs to rebuild their capital buffers. Fannie and Freddie’s capital reserves are scheduled to be wound down to zero by the beginning of 2018.
An unusual alliance among these banking groups, Fannie and Freddie investors and advocacy groups on the left and the right have called for the end of the profit sweeps. Most recently on Tuesday, 32 Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives sent FHFA Director Mel Watt and U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew a letter saying that the wind down of the capital buffers has hamstrung the GSEs and prevented them from hitting their affordable housing targets.
Corso and Olson said via a conference call that their organizations support rebuilding the GSEs’ capital buffers to prevent the possibility that Fannie and Freddie might have to take future draws on the Treasury, which would be politically unpopular and could destabilize the secondary market. Both trade groups want Watt to present a recapitalization plan this year, and for Congress to reform the GSEs and ultimately release Fannie and Freddie from an eight-year conservatorship.
“Among our members, fully 50 percent of the business they do is conventional lending and virtually all of that is conventional, conforming lending, loans that get sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” Corso said. “This is enormously important to the members in our organization since half of their business depends on them.”
CMLA and CHLA’s revenues totaled $339,483 and $167,000 in 2014, respectively, according to their federal tax filings. Their revenues were wholly derived from membership dues and sponsorship fees.