Following in the wake of Friday’s massive bank failure, and the Senate’s passage of an economically destructive and pork-filled mortgage bailout bill that will further destabilize housing markets, the federal government is now moving to bail out the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It will cost the treasury (and taxpayers) billions of dollars to bail them out. Fannie Mae, which helped spawn the mortgage crisis, has engaged in accounting fraud worse than what happened at Enron in order to inflate its managers’ bonuses.
Fannie Mae, an unaccountable entity set up during the New Deal, is nominally private, the way Amtrak is, but it operates much like a government agency. (The Supreme Court ruled in its 1995 Lebron decision that Amtrak is really a government agency, even though Congress declared it to be private in its enabling statute).
Fannie Mae passes its costs and risks on to the taxpayers, while relying on its supposedly “private” status to allow its managers to collect inflated pay that is the envy of many private sector companies. It has been run by cronies of liberal politicians like Franklin Raines and liberal power broker Jim Johnson. But even liberal newspapers like the Seattle Post-Intelligencer have documented scandalous accounting manipulations at Fannie Mae. As the Post-Intelligencer reports, Fannie Mae’s vice president for audits all but ordered employees to engage in accounting fraud to increase the bonuses of Fannie Mae’s managers:
“‘You must have 6.46 branded in your brains. You must be able to say it in your sleep, you must be able to recite it forwards and backwards, you must have a raging fire in your belly that burns away all doubts, you must live, breathe and dream 6.46, you must be obsessed by 6.46,’ a corporate officer told his colleagues in the year 2000. This was no ordinary company. It was Fannie Mae, a government-sponsored private company that helps banks finance mortgages, and the company vice president was not a cheerleader or a sales manager but the senior vice president in charge of internal audits.”
In 2006, CEI filed a lawsuit to curb unaccountable government agencies, called Free Enterprise Fund v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. CEI is suing the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, which was set up by Congress, and declared to be “private” (and thus unaccountable under open-government laws), even though it can impose multimillion dollar fines, and has generated red tape that costs the economy at least $35 billion per year. CEI argues that this violates the Constitution’s Appointments Clause and separation of powers.