Page last updated at 10:02 GMT, Thursday, 28 August 2008 11:02 UK

Management shake-up at Fannie Mae

Home repossessed in US
A rise in foreclosures has added to uncertainty for US lenders

US mortgage giant Fannie Mae has announced a shake-up of top executives, in an attempt to restore confidence after a series of losses.

Three executives have left, but the board said it remained committed to its chief executive Daniel Mudd.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are a key part of the US market, guaranteeing half the mortgages offered.

Stephen Swad, chief financial officer since last year, will be replaced by controller David Hisey.

When you change risk management people, it has to be viewed as recognising problems
David Dreman, shareholder

Peter Niculescu, head of capital markets, will replace Robert Levin as chief business officer. Enrico Dallavecchia, the company's chief risk officer, will also leave.

The changes "signal they are trying to correct some problems," said David Dreman, chair of Dreman Value Management, a Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac shareholder.

"When you change risk management people, it has to be viewed as recognising problems, so it is mildly positive."

Feeling the strain

Almost all US mortgage lenders, from huge financial institutions such as Citigroup to small, local banks, rely on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, looking to them for the funds they need to meet consumer demand for mortgages.

Daniel Mudd
The board says it remains committed to its chief executive, Daniel Mudd

The two firms argue that they make home ownership more affordable, lowering the interest rates on the 30-year mortgages that they guarantee.

Their finances have been highly strained by rising defaults and falling house prices, in light of the weakening US housing market.

As mortgage guarantors, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac must pay out when homeowners default on their loans.

Bail-out?

Their peculiar status has left them in a grey area between being government-owned and the private sector, with potential risks to the taxpayer should they need bailing out.

The Treasury gained the authority to bail out the Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, including buying shares in the two companies if needed, in a rescue plan approved at the end of July.

However, the Treasury has said that it has no plans bail out the two firms, which underpin the US mortgage market.

Fannie Mae's shares have risen in recent days as investor fears that it would be nationalised subsided.

On Wednesday its shares rose 15.3%, although they fell back slightly in after-hours trading.


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