By LOUISE STORY
Wells Fargo and some other large banks would like private companies, perhaps even themselves, to become the new housing finance giants helping to bundle individual mortgages into securities — that would be stamped with a government guarantee.
The banks have presented their ideas publicly through trade groups. Housing industry consultants and people familiar with recent meetings at the Treasury Department say these banks view the government’s overhaul of the mortgage market as a potential profit opportunity. Treasury officials have met with executives from several institutions, including Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse, according to a public listing of the meetings.
The administration’s report, to be released later this month, is expected to be sweeping and could address basic questions like whether a government guarantee is needed at all for middle-class homeowners. While other arms of the government are dedicated to making loans available to lower-income borrowers, Fannie and Freddie have helped lower rates for the bulk of homeowners. Some Republicans are trying to narrow this broad role, and on Thursday, several conservative researchers released a proposal on how to do so. But banks, for their part, have told the administration that removing the guarantee would wipe out the widespread availability of the 30-year mortgage, fundamentally reshaping the American housing market. Though some other countries do not promote long mortgages, some analysts warn that such a change would be devastating to the market here. At firms like Goldman, analysts are predicting that a government guarantee on a broad swath of mortgage securities will survive in some form.
A spokesman for the Treasury declined to comment on the administration’s plans, but one former Treasury official warned against the banks’ proposal.
“I don’t think that private shareholder-owned entities should issue federal government guarantees,” said Michael S. Barr, who worked on housing issues at the Treasury Department until the end of last month and then returned to his job as a law professor at the University of Michigan. “I think that creates the same conflict we had in the past.”
Continue reading here…