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The Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC), known as Freddie Mac (OTCBB: FMCC), is a public government sponsored enterprise (GSE), headquartered in the Tyson’s Corner CDP in unincorporated Fairfax County, Virginia
The FHLMC was created in 1970 to expand the secondary market for mortgages in the US. Along with other GSEs, Freddie Mac buys mortgages on the secondary market, pools them, and sells them as a mortgage-backed security to investors on the open market. This secondary mortgage market increases the supply of money available for mortgage lending and increases the money available for new home purchases.
The name, “Freddie Mac”, is an acronym of the company’s full name that had been adopted officially for ease of identification (see “GSEs” below for other examples).
On September 7, 2008, Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) director James B. Lockhart III announced he had put Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac under the conservatorship of the FHFA. The action has been described as “one of the most sweeping government interventions in private financial markets in decades”.
Freddie Mac’s primary method of making money is by charging a guarantee fee on loans that it has purchased and securitized into mortgage-backed security bonds. Investors, or purchasers of Freddie Mac MBS, are willing to let Freddie Mac keep this fee in exchange for assuming the credit risk, that is, Freddie Mac’s guarantee that the principal and interest on the underlying loan will be paid back regardless of whether the borrower actually repays.
Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac often benefited from an implied guarantee of fitness equivalent to truly federally-backed financial groups.
As of 2008, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac owned or guaranteed about half of the U.S.’s $12 trillion mortgage market. This made both corporations highly susceptible to the subprime mortgage crisis of that year. Ultimately, in July 2008, the speculation was made reality, when the US government took action to prevent the collapse of both corporations.
The US Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve took several steps to bolster confidence in the corporations, including extending credit limits, granting both corporations access to Federal Reserve low-interest loans (at similar rates as commercial banks), and potentially allowing the Treasury Department to own stock. This event also renewed calls for stronger regulation of GSEs by the government.
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