Justice Department Will Not Charge Fannie; Freddie Still Faces Civil Penalties

Fannie Mae announced on Thursday that the Department of Justice (DOJ) had concluded its investigation into the accounting scandal at the giant mortgage company, a decision that removed the threat of criminal charges against the company. This was good news for Fannie Mae, but the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO), said that it “is currently reviewing potential civil and administrative actions against former executives of Fannie Mae.” Neither the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) nor the Justice Department have concluded their investigations of Freddie Mac’s accounting, Reuters says, and the home mortgage provider may yet face civil penalties.


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Fannie settled with OFHEO and then in May it agreed to pay $400 million in civil penalties.

Burt Ely, an independent analyst and critic of Fannie Mae, told the New York Times that a criminal indictment against [Fannie Mae] became less likely once Congress began drafting legislation that would change the way Fannie and Freddie are regulated.

“Frankly a lot of people forgot that this was still under way, because we have moved past it,” Mr. Ely said, according to the Times.

“Fannie has no criminal liability outstanding now, but the Freddie investigation has not been put to bed in the same way,” said Brian Gardner, a vice president at Keefe, Bruette & Woods, Inc. in New York, Reuters reports.

Freddie Mac is moving forward in its effort to put its accounting problems behind it, according to company spokesman Michael Cosgrove. Cosgrove told Reuters that that the company “has made its number one priority clearing up these various loose ends and legal matters.”

On Monday, Freddie Mac announced that it had agreed to pay $4.65 million to settle a class-action lawsuit which alleged that the company had violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), both by failing to provide adequate information to participants in its 401(k) plan, and failing to manage the funds properly. The alleged ERISA violation had also been the subject of an investigation by the Labor Department (DOL), according to the Associated Press. Freddie did not admit wrongdoing.

The payment in the suit will be covered by insurance, Freddie Mac says, the AP reports

Freddie was fined $125 million in 2003 by OFHEO, and last April settled two suits, one with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for a record $3.8 million relating to improper fund raising, Reuters says, and a shareholder lawsuit for $410 million.

In a statement commenting on the ERISA settlement, Richard Syron, Chairman and CEO at Freddie Mac said, “Today’s proposed settlement further demonstrates our commitment to resolving past issues.”


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