NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Famous consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader has renewed his efforts on behalf of common shareholders of bailed out mortgage giants Fannie Mae (FNMA) and Freddie Mac (FMCC).
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Nader argues that the government treated shareholders of the government sponsored enterprises or GSEs unfairly when it placed the agencies in conservatorship in 2008. Nader made a similar case in the newspaper in 2011.
Shareholders, including Nader himself, had purchased Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac shares believing them to be safe investments, he said. They had held on to their investments even as the financial crisis loomed larger, encouraged by statements from the companies' executives and high-ranking government officials that the agencies were "adequately capitalized."
Then the government placed the agencies in conservatorship in September 2008. The scheme allowed the government to receive warrants to buy 79.9% of the common stock. Shareholders held on to the remaining 20%, but they were just "zombie shareholders" with no rights or remedies against Fannie and Freddie.While Citigroup (C) and AIG (AIG) shareholders were "beaten down" on those bailouts, they have had the opportunity to recover their investment in the companies, Nader pointed out.
But institutional and individual shareholders of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were neither "vanquished not given an opportunity to recover" and are "trapped in limbo," he wrote. Nader also, separately, wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew calling for a proposal that would address the concerns of the common shareholders. "Regardless of the final outcome of the deliberations on the structure of these GSEs, Fannie and Freddie common shareholders deserve a chance to recover some of the value of their stock," he wrote in his letter. "The common shareholders have been in a financial limbo far too long. It is unfair to punish the common shareholders who have held their Fannie and Freddie stock, in the hopes of recouping some of their losses. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should be relisted on the NYSE and their conservatorships should, over time, be terminated." Nader may be fighting a losing battle, with policymakers still undecided on what to do with the bailed out giants.