Handling the Failure of a Government-Sponsored Enterprise

78 Pages Posted: 17 Jun 2005


Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are huge, fast-growing, highly leveraged, lightly regulated, and susceptible to failure. Prudence calls for having a legal mechanism adequate for handling their failure. Yet no adequate insolvency mechanism currently exists for them. Unlike ordinary business firms, these government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) cannot liquidate or reorganize under the Bankruptcy Code. If Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac became sufficiently troubled, its regulator could appoint a conservator to take control of the firm and attempt to restore its financial health. But by then the firm's problems could well have become too severe for the conservator to resolve. The conservatorship statute provides no means for effectuating a reorganization and does not expressly authorize a liquidation. Uncertainty about the priority and process for handling creditors' claims could worsen the firm's problems and increase the risk of disrupting financial markets and eliciting a costly congressional rescue.

By enacting a workable insolvency mechanism, Congress could avoid using public money or credit to rescue a troubled GSE's creditors. Congress should specify priorities among creditors' claims, authorize appointment of a receiver, and empower the receiver to reorganize the GSE or establish an interim firm to carry on the GSE's business. Alternatively, Congress could allow GSEs to liquidate or reorganize under the Bankruptcy Code.

Keywords: bankruptcy, conservator, Fannie Mae, Farm Credit System, Farmer Mac, Federal Home Loan Bank System, Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., Federal National Mortgage Assn., FHLBS, FHLMC, FNMA, Freddie Mac, government sponsored enterprise, implicit guarantee, liquidation, receiver, reorganization

JEL Classification: G18, G21, G28, G33, K29

Suggested Citation

Carnell, Richard Scott, Handling the Failure of a Government-Sponsored Enterprise. Washington Law Review, Vol. 80, pp. 565-642, August 2005, Fordham Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 88, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=745486

Richard Scott Carnell (Contact Author)

Fordham University School of Law ( email )

140 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10023
United States
212-636-7310 (Phone)
212-636-6899 (Fax)

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