Guess what just happened? In case you forgot, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) had previously accused Citigroup of violating securities laws and making misrepresentations of billions of mortgage bonds. Unsurprisingly, Citigroup settled, which is just a euphemism for an “oligarch wrist slap.” What’s really disturbing is that the settlement amount will remain a secret, which takes cronyism to yet another despicable level. After all, take a look at the man who runs the Treasury Department. From Bloomberg:
The conservator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was eager for publicity in September 2011 when it sued 17 financial institutions, accusing them of ripping off the two government-backed housing financiers. It isn’t so enthusiastic anymore.
This week the U.S. Federal Housing Finance Agency told a federal judge it had settled its case against Citigroup Inc. The agency won’t say how much money Citigroup is paying. Neither will Citigroup, which survived the financial crisis only because it got multiple taxpayer bailouts. The parties agreed to keep the terms confidential. The government has decided this is none of the public’s business.
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A very important article came out from the Wall Street Journal yesterday titled “FHA Nears Need for Taxpayer Funds,” and it outlines the serious financial problems facing the Federal Housing Administration. For those that are unaware or need a refresher, the FHA has been the key element to the phony “housing recovery” the government has been trying to create. In the wake of the collapse of 2008, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac blew up and what was left to pick up the pieces was the FHA. No private player would issue loans with down payments of 3%, but this was no problem for the FHA!
Interestingly enough, a lot of the subprime borrowers that blew up the housing market the last time became the primary customers of the FHA. Let’s see, 3% down and subprime borrowers…what could possibly go wrong?! From the WSJ:
The Federal Housing Administration is expected to report this week it could exhaust its reserves because of rising mortgage delinquencies, according to people familiar with the agency’s finances, a development that could result in the agency needing to draw on taxpayer funding for the first time in its 78-year history.
Together with Fannie and Freddie, federal agencies are backing nearly nine in 10 new mortgages.
The FHA accounted for one third of loans used to purchase homes last year among owner occupants.
Though the agency guarantees fewer mortgages than either Fannie or Freddie, it now has more seriously delinquent loans than either of the mortgage-finance giants. Overall, the FHA insured nearly 739,000 loans that were 90 days or more past due or in foreclosure at the end of September, an increase of more than 100,000 loans from a year ago. That represents about 9.6% of its $1.08 trillion in mortgages guaranteed.
This is a big deal. The FHA is already in trouble despite a miraculous “housing recovery” and we haven’t even hit a severe cyclical economic slowdown yet, which is almost certain to occur in 2013. What shambles do you think the housing market will be in once that happens and the last backstop to housing is broke? You can kiss this “housing recovery” goodbye. I think home prices nationally could fall 25%+ from here. For more detailed thoughts on housing read my piece from April titled Thought of the Day – House Flipping in Colorado.
Full WSJ article here.