by Ricardo Caballero
Here we go again. Two pillars of the US and world financial system, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, have become embroiled in the current financial turmoil. To be sure, nobody in their right mind expects these institutions to stop operating; the issue instead is whether, how and when a government intervention takes place.
Treasury secretary Henry Paulson has just announced a first package of all out support that involves contingent credit and possibly equity. The terms of the latter are yet unclear but they harbor hope that Treasury has realized how dangerous its previous anti-stockholders strategy had become. Only last Friday the rumor had it that Secretary Paulson was insisting that any potential government rescue plan would not benefit the companies’ shareholders. In fact, if he were to continue with the modus operandi he adopted during the recent Bear Stearns intervention, not only shareholders would not benefit, but they would be “exemplarily” punished.