NEW YORK (
) - A lot of people lost a lot of money when
were placed into conservatorship: Roughly 20,000 entities -- mutual funds, pension funds, banks and individual investors -- were registered as holders of the common stock alone.
But since the government has taken so long to come up with a plan for their future, a handful of speculative traders have made a killing in the aftermath of their collapse.
On Wednesday, Fannie and Freddie's regulator officially announced that they would
delist from major exchanges
. Edward DeMarco, acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, explained that the decision was made because of minimum pricing requirements and "curing deficiencies" -- in other words, a lack of liquidity in the stocks.
The FHFA's directive "does not constitute any reflection on either enterprise's current performance or future direction, nor does delisting imply any other findings or determination on the part of FHFA as regulator or conservator," he added.
Phew -- that's reassuring. One might have inferred that the government was actually taking a stand.
DeMarco's statement seems to miss the point. The two firms haven't consistently met exchange requirements since entering conservatorship. Everyone's still waiting for the government to sketch out what the "future direction" is, and have been doing so for more than 19 months. In the meantime, their operational performance is widely considered to be atrocious: Fannie and Freddie have lost more than $107 billion since the start of 2007, because of unprecedented stress in the mortgage markets they support.
New York Stock Exchange
notified Fannie Mae on Nov. 12, 2008 that it had failed to meet requirements for continued trading. Fannie didn't regain compliance for nearly a year, because it traded consistently under $1. But it has been failing to meet that level, once again, since May.
When the Treasury Department announced plans to effectively acquire 80% of the GSEs in September 2008, their shares were already under heavy pressure. Since then, the firms have lost about $70 billion in market value, which doesn't include the wiping out of privately-held preferred shares.