Investors are Ready to Discover Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac


Source: Flickr / Georgie Pauwels.

After an amendment to the preferred stock purchase agreement with the U.S. government was added in 2012, shareholders of Fannie Mae (NASDAQOTCBB: FNMA  ) and Freddie Mac (NASDAQOTCBB: FMCC  ) are forced to rely on the courts to realize any value from their investment.

A recent decision from the court hands an early win to Fannie and Freddie investors and we could soon learn a lot more about their situations.

Early win
For Fannie and Freddie investors, overturning the Sweep Amendment put in place in Aug. 2012 is critical to giving shares any value. Since politicians are generally more eager to wind down the GSEs than give shareholders any value, the courts are the most likely way for the Sweep Amendment to be overturned.

Although there are many parties suing the U.S. government over its handling of Fannie and Freddie, the case put forward by Fairholme Funds is one of the most critical and where the current news comes from.

Last week, a federal judge sided with the plaintiffs, Fairholme Funds, and granted discovery beginning April 7 and ending Jul. 31. In other words, the defendants, The United States, will have to start releasing information beginning at the start of this week.

What it means
The case against the government in the Fannie and Freddie case largely rests on the idea of collusion within the government. The pro-shareholder side alleges that the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), the conservator and controller of the GSEs, acted with the government to steal the profits of Fannie and Freddie through the Sweep Amendment.

Right now, the story would suggest that something to that effect happened, considering the Sweep Amendment was enacted soon after the GSEs returned to profit, and that no manager of a profitable company would agree to give up its entire future profits for no compensation. However, finding hard evidence to support these allegations has been difficult.

Discovery could grant new insights into the internal acts of the government leading up to the Sweep Amendment and possibly bring hard evidence to back up the allegations of the plaintiffs.

Terms of discovery
First, by granting discovery to begin soon, the plaintiffs are put in a much better position. The battle to save Fannie and Freddie's shareholders is a race between the courts and Congress, the latter of which is looking at different ways to wind down the GSEs and almost certainly wipe out common shareholders. Having discovery begin on April 7 means the lawsuit can progress faster and possible information can come to light before Congress can pass legislation to end Fannie and Freddie.

The terms also call for status conferences every two weeks between the court, the plaintiffs and the defendants. Although status conferences are fairly common in legal proceedings, having one every two weeks should help to keep the government from slowing down the release of requested information and allow the proceedings to move along faster.

Lawsuit investment
In the past decade, Fannie and Freddie have gone from being blue chip stocks, to near worthless penny stocks, to bets on the legal rulings from the nation's courts. Fairholme Funds has been granted discovery to begin next week and they could soon know a lot more about what happened inside the government around the time of the Sweep Amendment.

But we are no where near the end here. Discovery is one of the first parts of a lawsuit and even this stage will continue through the summer. So for Fannie and Freddie investors, your prospects just improved a bit but be prepared for a long, and possibly bumpy, ride.

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Read/Post Comments (6) | Recommend This Article (0)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 08, 2014, at 7:11 AM, chessmoves wrote:

    That's more like it!,,,, Finally someone at fools has more capacity for jour

    nalism. Bravo.

  • Report this Comment On April 08, 2014, at 9:39 AM, bigjohn327 wrote:

    the only mistake in the article is that there is a race between congress and the courts. the courts have the control here and anything congress does can be overturned by the courts. that is why we may not see anything come out of congress this year

  • Report this Comment On April 08, 2014, at 9:39 AM, smauney wrote:

    Second that.

  • Report this Comment On April 08, 2014, at 10:29 AM, 1righteousF00L wrote:

    In the movie A Few Good Men when lieutenants Kaffee and Weinberg are preparing to question the doctor, there is the following exchange:

    Lt. Kaffee

    Doctor, was there any sign of violence?

    Lt. Weinberg

    You mean other than the dead body?

    You say in your article:

    "However, finding hard evidence to support these allegations [that one self-interested agency in the government acted in concert with another agency whose duty it was to conserve the companies] has been difficult."

    Do you mean besides the fact that it was done?

  • Report this Comment On April 08, 2014, at 11:20 AM, LucoBrazi wrote:

    Nice to see fool actually taking some risk in their reporting. Being such a conservative rag, just don't understand why they are not questioning the constitution principles, or lack of in this case.

  • Report this Comment On April 08, 2014, at 11:18 PM, maestrolindo wrote:

    This whole mess is Congress's fault. No one pumped the subprime harder than they did. Affordable houses for everyone, jumbo mortgages, 0% down. They compromised underwriting standards. If anything should be wound down and eliminated it's our current elected officials. 12% approval rating ready to take down two pillars of our economy after the biggest comeback in financial history? Whatever gets them re-elected lol!

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