3 former Freddie Mac execs settle SEC disclosures lawsuit

AP News
Posted: Apr 14, 2015 8:15 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — A former CEO and two former top executives at mortgage giant Freddie Mac have settled a government lawsuit. They were accused of understating the amounts of high-risk mortgages that Freddie held just before the housing bubble burst in 2007.

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced the settlement late Tuesday with former Freddie CEO Richard Syron; Patricia Cook, an executive vice president and chief business officer; and Donald Bisenius, a senior vice president.

They agreed to donations to a fund for Freddie investors of $250,000 for Syron, $50,000 for Cook and $10,000 for Bisenius.

The government rescued Freddie and larger sibling Fannie Mae in 2008 as they neared collapse after incurring massive losses on risky mortgages. Taxpayers spent about $187 billion to rescue the two companies, including $71 billion for Freddie, based in McLean, Virginia.

Since the government takeover, a federal regulator has controlled the companies' financial decisions. The gradual recovery of the housing market has made the companies profitable again, and they have fully repaid the government loans.

Fannie and Freddie buy home loans from banks and other lenders, package them into bonds with a guarantee against default and then sell them to investors around the world. Together they own or guarantee about half of all U.S. mortgages, worth around $5 trillion.

The SEC also sued former Fannie CEO Daniel Mudd and two other former Fannie executives. They have disputed the allegations.

Syron and Mudd led the mortgage giants in 2007, when home prices began to collapse.

According to the SEC, Fannie and Freddie misrepresented their exposure to mortgages for borrowers with weak credit in reports, speeches and congressional testimony.

The SEC said Freddie told investors in late 2006 that it held between $2 billion and $6 billion of subprime mortgages on its books — but its actual subprime holdings were actually closer to $141 billion, or 10 percent of its portfolio in 2006, and $244 billion, or 14 percent, by 2008.

"I am deeply relieved and gratified by today's announcement that the longstanding litigation with the SEC has been resolved," Syron said in a statement Tuesday. "It has been a long, tough road and I am happy for the opportunity to move on with my life."

Bisenius said he was gratified that the SEC had agreed to end its case. "I look forward to focusing on the future, including my career, and spending time with family and friends," he said.