FHFA publishes final rule around capital initiatives

The Federal Housing Finance Agency on Wednesday published a final rule that ties new public disclosure requirements for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in with a recently-modified enterprise regulatory capital framework.

The rule’s publication also makes a stressed-based capital buffer determination used in the regulatory framework part of a new capital planning process for the two government-sponsored enterprises. Additionally, it sets May 20, 2023 as the date Fannie and Freddie will begin submitting their new annual capital plans to their regulator.

“The final rule provides the enterprises with a stable regulatory framework that ensures the amount of capital held is commensurate with each of their risk profiles,” said Sandra Thompson, acting director of the FHFA, in a press release. (Thompson was recently confirmed as director of the FHFA, but is still in an acting role until she is officially sworn in.)

The modified capital framework and new investor disclosure requirements for Fannie and Freddie, which back a large share of mortgage in the United States, are considered key steps toward ensuring their financial soundness and potentially releasing them conservatorship, something Thompson has expressed an interest in and Republicans have favored. This may have factored into Thompson’s confirmation vote. Although that vote was largely split down party lines, two independents and one Republican, Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., supported her.

Capital forecasts used for internal purposes and from an investor perspective will be mandatory elements of the new planning process and are among the steps that would support an exit from the conservatorship the GSEs have been in since the Great Recession’s housing crash. Those forecasts would first be used as a basis for rebuilding capital under ERCF requirements. At some point down the road, they could be used to approve dividends.