Fannie, Freddie surge as Treasury-pick Mnuchin advocates their release from government control

Shares of Fannie Mae  and Freddie Mac surged Wednesday after President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Treasury Secretary said the two mortgage enterprises would be released from government control under his watch.

Shares of Fannie were up about 45% Wednesday, and Freddie shares rose about 44%.

Fannie FNMA, +45.78%  and Freddie FMCC, +45.70%  were placed into federal conservatorship during the 2008 financial crisis, and in 2012, the Obama administration amended the terms of the 2008 agreement to sweep quarterly profits from the two enterprises, a move that’s been challenged in court by shareholders.

“We gotta get Fannie and Freddie out of government ownership,” Mnuchin told Fox News Wednesday morning. “It makes no sense that these are owned by the government and have been controlled by the government for as long as they have.”

Mnuchin’s nomination does have to be confirmed by the Senate.

Asked why the enterprises had not already been released from conservatorship, Mnuchin said that it had not been a priority for the Obama administration.

Shares of the two had already doubled following Trump’s surprise election victory, as he surrounded himself with other advisers largely seen as sympathetic to shareholders.

Ken Blackwell, who was picked to lead the domestic transition team, wrote an op-ed in 2014 in which he called the Treasury arrangement “theft of private property.” In the piece, Blackwell noted that there is a “bipartisan consensus on how to wind down Fannie and Freddie.”

Earlier in November, the Wall Street Journal reported that hedge fund investor John Paulson had been tapped to be a Trump adviser because of his understanding of the housing market. Paulson is known for shorting the subprime mortgage market as the housing bubble inflated a decade ago.

Paulson’s company has donated extensively to nonprofits and lobbyists advocating for the release of the enterprises from government controls, according to an earlier Journal article.

Mnuchin also serves on the board of directors of Sears Holdings SHLD, -0.92%   with Bruce Berkowitz, CIO of Fairholme Capital Management, one of the firms leading the shareholder lawsuits.

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