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Search is on for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac regulator

April 6, 2005

OFHEO head resigns

Inman News

The director of the national agency that oversees mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac resigned on Tuesday.

Armando Falcon sent a letter to President Bush on Tuesday announcing his resignation, saying the most critical issues facing the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight have been addressed.

In the letter, Falcon said he would leave OFHEO on May 20, "absent extraordinary circumstances."

Falcon said he was proud of OFHEO's accomplishments during his tenure, and that the agency had "successfully dealt with serious problems at two of the largest financial institutions in the world."

Falcon had originally stepped down in early 2003.

Stephen Blumenthal will become acting director of the agency, according to Michael Oxley, chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services.

"OFHEO Director Armando Falcon has done a commendable job under difficult circumstances," Oxley said. "Stephen Blumenthal … is knowledgeable, effective, and capable. He has the ability to lead OFHEO as we in Congress continue our efforts to build a new regulator to oversee the (government sponsored enterprises)."

On Monday, it was reported that OFHEO had sent the Federal Register a final corporate governance rule that amends and strengthens the existing regulation and reduces the potential for future corporate misconduct at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The rule changes stem, in part, from OFHEO's special examinations of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Upon publication in the Federal Register, the rule will become final.

OFHEO issued a report in September that found accounting irregularities at Fannie Mae. The report spurred Congressional hearings, the departure of top management and an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

"Throughout his career, Director Falcon has demonstrated a high level of commitment to the mortgage and housing industry and to effective oversight of the GSEs," said Kurt Pfotenhauer, senior vice president of government affairs at the Mortgage Bankers Association. "He has earned the respect of people from all facets of the industry."

Falcon's letter comes as lawmakers begin to consider legislation that would create a new regulator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mace with more authority than OFHEO.

Copyright 2005 Inman News

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