NPR logo Fannie Mae Is Still A Platypus


Fannie Mae Is Still A Platypus

Hello, Fannie. Nicole Duplaix/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption
Nicole Duplaix/Getty Images

It lays eggs! It nurses its young! It backs billions of dollars worth of U.S. mortgages!

Fannie Mae is a platypus, Ben Bernanke said recently. It's backed by the U.S. government, but not really part of the government. "Neither fish nor fowl," he said. A "no-man's land" between public and private. (For a more thorough explanation of the status of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, read this.)

The weird status of Fannie and Freddie came up again today.

"People who own Fannie and Freddie debt are not in the same legal position as [those who own] Treasury bonds, and I don't want them to be," Barney Frank, the Mass. Dem. who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, told the Washington Post.

He told the Post that investors might take losses when Fannie and Freddie are restructured.

The Treasury responded with a statement that "there should be no uncertainty about Treasury's commitment to support Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac."

And Frank came out with his own statement. It said that the legal status of Fannie and Freddie "does not prevent the Treasury from treating the debt of Fannie and Freddie in in the manner that it believes best supports the important goal of stabilizing the financial system."

It has a tail like a beaver and a bill like a duck!