Ratings Agencies Relied On Bad Information from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae

February 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: The Rating Agencies, The Ratings System 

Peter Wallison, a Treasury Official in the Reagan administration, wrote in The Wall Street Journal that Edward Pinto, former Fannie Mae credit manager, discovered that both Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac routinely exaggerated the quality of its mortgages. Mr. Pinto explains that Alt A and subprime mortgages were routinely rated as “prime” to make mortgage credit more readily available to lower income levels.

Because of this misrepresentation, the ratings agencies believed that losses from the securities backed by these mortgages would be “within the historical range for the number of high-risk loans known to be outstanding.” Instead the number of high-risk loans was much larger than anyone knew. When the default rates and losses exploded, Mr. Wallison explains, the subterfuge was exposed, leaving those holding the assets — and the ratings agencies — wondering what happened.

Therefore, the fault for the collapse, Mr. Wallison maintains, was not Wall Street’s or the ratings agencies’, but the misreporting that distorted the perception of everyone who bought and sold securities backed by these mortgages. This misreporting, he believes, was in response to government affordable housing rules. “Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are inexorably intertwined in the market collapse. It is essential that any examination of the crisis begin with a review of Congress’s use of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. We won’t hold our breath.”

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