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Hedge Funds Lobby D.C. On Fannie, Freddie Privatization

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Hedge funds betting on the re-privatization of Government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae (FNMA)and Freddie Mac (FMCC) have been taking their case to the nation's capital.

"There are hedge funds who are up on the Hill who have invested in these [GSE] preferred shares which are like lottery tickets right now. Of course they're trying to sell the White House on doing that and raising $200 billion, if you will, to pay off debt," said Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn) in an interview last week.

Corker has been on the receiving end of these pitches as well, which come from large hedge funds and smaller investors in GSE preferred shares, he says. He declined to identify the investors, however.

The push to reform U.S. housing finance is gathering steam, and while nearly everyone in the Obama Administration and in Congress would like to see the government reduce its role, they are hesitant to upset the apple cart for fear of slowing the economy. Currently about 90% of new mortgages are government guaranteed.

Hedge funds have been betting on a recovery in preferred shares of Fannie and Freddie for well over two years. Among those that have publicly identified themselves as participating in this bet, the largest is Hayman Capital Management, which manages $750 million. That is not especially large by hedge fund standards, and Kyle Bass, managing director in charge of the fund, told TheStreet in August 2012 that he sold the shares earlier that year when he concluded that both Republicans and Democrats "wanted them dead." Contacted by e-mail Tuesday, Bass responded, "I am not going to discuss anything regarding the GSEs."

Corker's language suggests a bigger fish, however.

"Let me put it this way: some really big really large hedge funds have taken positions in these preferred shares and they believe that somehow or another--at least some of them believe that, number one they want it spun off. Some of the arguments that are being put forth by the smaller owners are that, you know, the Federal Government's going to have to deal with them at some point. They can't just snuff 'em out," Corker said.
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