Wednesday, 16 July 2008

The Ballad of Fannie Mae

Wake up Fannie, I think I got something to say to you ...

So it’s all come unstuck for Fannie and Freddie, and we may all suffer.

All you did was wreck my bed
And in the morning kick me in the head

These guys were riding for a fall: the US mortgage industry, as we all know now, was lending like a drunken sailor on pay-day, partly for the origination bonuses and partly because there was pressure to let previously excluded sectors of American society - excluded because they couldn’t afford it - in on the property boom But they still couldn’t afford it. To take a slight liberty with the lyrics (as I am wont to do, ahem, though usually elsewhere)

You lent me for a way-big home
Just to say you were willing to loan

With unforeseen consequences ? Nope, this is Black Swan author Nassim Nicholas Taleb in 2006:

"Fanny (sic) Mae, when I look at their risks, seems to be sitting on a barrel of dynamite, vulnerable to the slightest hiccup … The increased concentration among banks seems to have had the effect of making financial crisis less likely, but when they happen they are more global in scale and hit us very hard – I shiver at the thought."

You made a first-class fool out of me
But I’m as blind as a fool can be . . .

Fannie, I wish I’d never seen your face



Anonymous said...

It's worth reading Galbraith's "The Great Crash": the secret of a real disaster is massive leverage. People will ignore any such obvious lesson if they think there's money to be made by ignoring it. I am impressed by the stupidity of those who didn't get out in time, though: from Big Swinging Dicks to wee, shrivelled pricks.

Old BE said...

I don't quite understand why the US has such a weird system in the first place. Does this mean yet more printing of dollars?

Steven_L said...

Nick, I read in the FT that Fannie Mae only buy debt with 80% loan to value ratios and proof of income and that the really toxic stuff was securitised by the big investment banks. Also that Fannie Mae debt has what might aswell be a US taxpayer guarantee.

Would it be fair to say the nationalisation of Northern Rock has created a kind of UK taxpayer guarantee on the really toxic stuff from this side of the pond? Or will the holders of Northern Rock toxic CDO's and stuff foot the bill themselves?

Bill Quango MP said...

We are failing
We are failing
In a Tide of debt
From across the sea
We are failing
To calm the waters
So a 2p fuel rise
Will now be Free

Anonymous said...

I had never heard of these banks till they collapsed! I particularly Fannymae - tee hee hee !!

Mark Wadsworth said...

If you want my money
And you think I'm sexy
C'mon honey let me know ...

Nick Drew said...

dearieme - there's so much one should have read before it all goes wrong ... (I have cut a few losses this week and am going abroad to change the scenery)

BE, Steven - got me there, on both counts, maybe others know -- ?

Mr Quango, Mr Wadsworth - don't tempt me, it's a slippery slope (I thought I'd been quite restrained on these pages but you never know)

Mutt - down, Boy !

Anonymous said...

I was finally enticed to come out of hiding and write a blog post abut Fannie and Freddie. It just occured to me this evening that they have the same business model as SIVs.

Anonymous said...

I am old enough and careful enough to get through all of this .For a start i have no debt.

What worries me is that i have a son of 30 plus years who has no experience of a recession in his adult life. He just has no idea of what is about to happen and he wont listen. Live and learn as they say.