Just what it sounds like. Yesterday the SEC charged six Fannie and Freddie executives with securities fraud for making misleading statements regarding high-risk mortgage loans. From the SEC website:
Washington, D.C., Dec. 16, 2011-The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged six former top executives of the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) with securities fraud, alleging they knew and approved of misleading statements claiming the companies had minimal holdings of higher-risk mortgage loans, including subprime loans.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac each entered into a Non-Prosecution Agreement with the Commission in which each company agreed to accept responsibility for its conduct and not dispute, contest, or contradict the contents of an agreed-upon Statement of Facts without admitting nor denying liability. Each also agreed to cooperate with the Commission's litigation against the former executives. In entering into these Agreements, the Commission considered the unique circumstances presented by the companies' current status, including the financial support provided to the companies by the U.S. Treasury, the role of the Federal Housing Finance Agency as conservator of each company, and the costs that may be imposed on U.S. taxpayers.
Three former Fannie Mae executives — former Chief Executive Officer Daniel H. Mudd, former Chief Risk Officer Enrico Dallavecchia, and former Executive Vice President of Fannie Mae's Single Family Mortgage business, Thomas A. Lund — were named in the SEC's complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
The SEC also charged three former Freddie Mac executives — former Chairman of the Board and CEO Richard F. Syron, former Executive Vice President and Chief Business Officer Patricia L. Cook, and former Executive Vice President for the Single Family Guarantee business Donald J. Bisenius — in a separate complaint filed in the same court.
"Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac executives told the world that their subprime exposure was substantially smaller than it really was," said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC's Enforcement Division. "These material misstatements occurred during a time of acute investor interest in financial institutions' exposure to subprime loans, and misled the market about the amount of risk on the company's books. All individuals, regardless of their rank or position, will be held accountable for perpetuating half-truths or misrepresentations about matters materially important to the interest of our country's investors."
As Mark Calabria notes, the SEC has a history of reaching settlements and avoiding trials. Let's hope that doesn't happen this time. Information about Fannie and Freddie's dealings ought to be made public.