Henry Paulson: Fannie, Freddie Should Become Like 'Public Utilities'

09/29/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Henry Paulson Hank Paulson

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should not be allowed to revert to their old form, crowding out private competition and putting taxpayers on the hook for failure while shareholders benefit from success. Reform should address the systemic risk they pose and should wean our mortgage finance system from its dependence on these institutions.

Any entity that Congress creates to serve a public policy goal of reducing mortgage costs cannot also be driven by shareholder returns. We must eliminate the inherent conflict between public purpose and private ownership that was destabilizing to the GSEs. Congress could eliminate that tension by restructuring Fannie and Freddie to create one or two private-sector entities that would purchase and securitize mortgages with a credit guarantee explicitly backed by the federal government and paid for by the new entity. These privately owned entities would be set up like public utilities and governed by a rate-setting commission that would establish a targeted rate of return.

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