WASHINGTON -- Congress is seeking to end the practice of paying million-dollar bonuses to executives at government-controlled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
The House Financial Services Committee approved legislation Tuesday that would suspend tens of millions in Fannie and Freddie executive compensation packages, stop future bonuses and align their salaries with other federal employees who make much less. The vote was 52-4, with strong support from both parties.
The Senate is expected to take up a similar measure. Lawmakers say the legislation limiting pay at the bailed-out firms could be sent to President Barack Obama by the end of this year.
Twelve executives at the firms received roughly $35.4 million in total salary and bonuses in 2009 and 2010. Fannie CEO Michael J. Williams received about $9.3 million for the two years. Freddie CEO Edward Haldeman Jr. was paid $7.8 million for that stretch.
The government rescued Washington-based Fannie and McLean, Va.-based Freddie three years ago after they nearly folded because of big losses on risky mortgages they purchased. Taxpayers have spent about $170 billion to rescue the two firms, the most expensive bailout of the 2008 financial crisis.
The government estimates the bailout could reach up to $220 billion through 2014.
"These lavish compensation packages and bonuses are unfair, unreasonable and unjust to the taxpayers whose assistance is the only thing keeping Fannie and Freddie afloat," said Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), chairman of the House committee.
Edward DeMarco, acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, said the executives were hired after the companies were taken over by the government in 2008. After the takeover, the salaries for those positions were reduced by an average of 40 percent and some senior positions were eliminated, he said.
Risking an 'Exodus of Talent'?
DeMarco told the Senate Banking Committee that bonuses are being used to keep talented executives with the companies. Without them, taxpayers would incur greater losses.
"The people who are there now did not choose government jobs," he said. "A sudden and sharp change in pay would certainly risk a substantial exodus of talent, the best leaving first in many instances."
Fannie and Freddie own or guarantee about half of all mortgages in the U.S., or nearly 31 million home loans. Along with other federal agencies, they backed nearly 90 percent of new mortgages over the past year.
This month, Fannie asked for $7.8 billion and Freddie requested $6 billion in extra aid to cover large quarterly losses, mostly caused by low mortgage rates reducing profits.
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Congress Targets Exec Bonuses At Fannie and Freddie
Quarterly increase in foreclosures: +32%
# of Foreclosures Q3 2011: 2,273
% home value down from peak: -12.42%
Columbus hit its median home value peak in the first quarter of 2006. Since that time, home values have declined a relatively modest 12.4%, including a 3.4% drop last year. By the second quarter of 2012, Fiserv projects that homes in the area will lose another 2.3% of their value. Median family income in Columbus is above the national average, and unemployment is just 8%, a full percentage point less than the national average. Despite the fact that things don’t look so bad for the Columbus housing market compared to other regions, the city foreclosure rate still increased by 32% last quarter. A total of 2,273 homes were foreclosed upon during that time.
Quarterly increase in foreclosures: +35%
# of Foreclosures Q3 2011: 1,743
% home value down from peak: -59.3%
There is arguably no single housing market with a worse long-term outlook than southwest Florida, and the Cape Coral-Fort Myers region is the worst of these. Housing prices in the have already dropped 59.3% from their peak, and Fiserv project them to decline another 12.2% by the second quarter of next year. According to Corelogic, 47% of the homes in the Cape Coral-Fort Myers area are worth less than their mortgages because of declining values. Foreclosures have increased 35% in the last quarter, and with no sign of recovery in the immediate future that trend may worsen in the coming months.
Quarterly increase in foreclosures: +36%
# of Foreclosures Q3 2011: 1,348
% home value down from peak: -59.1%
As of last month, Vallejo-Fairfield had the second-highest foreclosure rate in the country, with one out of every 51 homes being foreclosed upon in the third quarter of this year. This was a 36% increase in foreclosures from the second quarter. Home values have dropped 7.5% in the past year and are projected by Fiserv to drop an additional 4.9% by the second quarter of 2012. A remarkable 53% of homes in the region are worth less than their mortgages. This is the seventh highest rate of homes with underwater mortgages in the country.
Quarterly increase in foreclosures: +41%
# of Foreclosures Q3 2011: 2,174
% home value down from peak: -54%
Fresno’s economy has continued to suffer since housing prices began to drop in 2006. It currently has an unemployment rate of 14.9%, which is one of the highest in the country. Home prices peaked in the first quarter of 2006 and have been decreasing since. The metropolitan area also has one of the highest underwater mortgage rates in the country, with a negative equity share of nearly 46%. In the last year alone home prices have dropped 11%.
Quarterly increase in foreclosures: +44%
# of Foreclosures Q3 2011: 1,039
% home value down from peak: -53.4%
More than 1,000 homes were foreclosed upon in the Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville region last quarter, a 44% increase from the previous three-month period. Nearly half of the region’s homes are worth less than their mortgages. With Fiserv projecting home values would drop 7.1% by next year and another 4.9% the year after that, things may just get even worse.
Quarterly increase in foreclosures: +49%
# of Foreclosures Q3 2011: 2,559
% home value down from peak: -39.3%
Jacksonville has experienced a quarterly increase in foreclosures of nearly 50%. Home prices have dropped 39.1% since their peak in the second quarter of 2006. The metropolitan area’s negative equity share also exceeds 46%, making it among the worst in the country for underwater mortgages. Home prices are expected to decrease another 10.7% by the second quarter of 2012.
Quarterly increase in foreclosures: +55%
# of Foreclosures Q3 2011: 1,956
% home value down from peak: -15.9%
Nearly 2,000 homes were foreclosed upon during the last quarter, a 55% increase from the previous three months. Unlike many of the regions on this list with accelerating home foreclures, Cincinnati’s local economy is doing fairly well. Home prices are only down 15.9% from their peak in the first quarter of 2006. Unemployment and median family income are both better than average. One possible explanation for this recent increase may be that nearly a third of the total decline in home value since the peak has occurred in the past 12 months.
Quarterly increase in foreclosures: +57%
# of Foreclosures Q3 2011: 1,673
% home value down from peak: -51.4%
The Sarasota-Bradenton-Venice metropolitan area has seen the third largest increase in the country in foreclosures in the third quarter. However, only 1,673 homes out of the 311,475 on the market were foreclosed upon. The housing market has suffered a great deal since housing prices peaked in the first quarter of 2006. Since then, overall home prices have dropped 51.4%.
Quarterly increase in foreclosures: +67%
# of Foreclosures Q3 2011: 2,003
% home value down from peak: -15.8%
The Boston metropolitan area is considered to have a particularly resilient housing market. In the most recent quarter, however, foreclosures have increased 67%. Home prices have only dropped 15.8% since they peaked in the third quarter of 2005. The national average is -32.3%. From the second quarter of 2010 to the second quarter of 2011, home prices dropped a mere 1.7%.
Quarterly increase in foreclosures: +151%
# of Foreclosures Q3 2011: 1,358
% home value down from peak: -14.9%
Albuquerque’s housing market, like Boston’s, is relatively healthy. While home prices decreased 32.3% nationally after their peak, home prices in Albuquerque only decreased 14.9% since they peaked. Regardless, foreclosures have recently skyrocketed. In the third quarter of 2011, the number of foreclosures in Albuquerque increased 151%. According to New Mexico Business Weekly, the lack of job creation in the area has been a major contributor to this problem.