Monthly Archives: September 2008

John Gapper

The US government’s near- nationalisation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac leaves various questions unresolved. Hank Paulson, the Treasury secretary, recognised the biggest of these in his speech on the rescue on Sunday: whether they should become public or private entities in future.

“Government support needs to be either explicit or non-existent, and structured to resolve the conflict between public and private purposes. And policymakers must address the issue of systemic risk.”

He is right that a choice has to be made. Fannie was originally established in 1938 to buy and hold mortgages insured by the federal government through the Federal Housing Administration. The idea was to provide government backing so that low income families could afford to buy homes. Read more

John Gapper


There are some assignments in in this job that can plausibly be described as work but feel more like a pleasant day out. I spent this morning, for example, sailing around New York harbour with Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, and his 26-year-old daughter Holly.

There were, admittedly, a few other people on the boat with us. In fact, there was a bevy of reporters and photographers to report on the launch of Sir Richard’s latest publicity stunt attempt to break a world record.

After taking a break from crossing oceans at high speed in boats (including one time when he sank) and attempting to circumnavigate the world in a balloon, he has returned to the fray. He and a crew that includes Ms Branson and her 23-year-old brother Sam will next week attempt to cross the Atlantic in a single-hulled sailing yacht in record time.

I must admit that I spent most of my time on board the 99-foot Teamorigin yacht taking in the New York sunshine and chatting to Ms Branson, a pleasant young woman who has just graduated from medical school in London and is taking a year off to learn about the Virgin business before resuming her training as a doctor. Read more

John Gapper

They do things differently in Mountain View. Read more