Posted January 5, 2012
A must-read courtesy of James Pethokoukis at The American:
This could be just the beginning. If President Barack Obama’s legally dodgy appointment of Richard Cordray to head the consumer finance agency should stick, it may open the door to more such actions. Here’s Jaret Seiberg of the Washington Research Group:
To us, the most important takeaway from a recess appointment of Cordray is that the President could use this same maneuver to put a housing advocate in charge of FHFA.
And why is that important? The Federal Housing Finance Agency is the regulator and conservator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And the FHFA currently has an acting director, Edward DeMarco. If Obama replaces him with a “housing advocate” via the same recess appointment process, here’s what might happen next, according to Seiberg:
That could lead to a mass refinancing program for agency-backed mortgages that would go well beyond the existing HARP program. That could hurt agency MBS pricing and result in higher financing costs going forward. Yet it also could be a big boost for the economy and housing going into the election.
Indeed, my sources tell me the Obama administration has been eager to implement just such a plan, but needs to have its own man heading the FHFA to make it happen. The plan would be modeled after one originally devised by Columbia University economists Glenn Hubbard (a campaign adviser to Mitt Romney and AEI visiting scholar) and Christopher Mayer. In recent congressional testimony, Mayer described how the mass refinancing plan would work:
Under our plan, every homeowner with a GSE mortgage can refinance his or her mortgage with a new mortgage at a current fixed of 4.20 percent or less. … To qualify, the homeowner must be current on his or her mortgage or become so for at least three months. … Other than being current, we would impose no other qualification or application, except for the intention to accept the new rate (that is, no appraisal, no income verification, no tax returns, etc.).
Mayer estimates that some $3.7 trillion of mortgages would be refinanced. That’s right, this would be the Mother of All Mortgage Refinancing Plans. It would help roughly 30 million borrowers save $75 billion to $80 billion a year.
Much, much more here.