FHFA IG Clears Freddie Mac’s Use of Inverse Floating-Rate Bonds

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On September 26, the FHFA Inspector General (IG) reported that neither Freddie Mac nor the FHFA purposefully limited refinancing opportunities to influence the yields of Freddie Mac inverse floating-rate bonds (inverse floaters). Inverse floaters are a by-product of other variable rate bonds carved out of Freddie Mac’s securitized mortgages to capitalize on increasing investor demand. Because the value of inverse floaters decreases when the underlying mortgages are refinanced, U.S. lawmakers and others argued that inverse floaters created a conflict of interest for Freddie Mac’s investment and refinancing policies because Freddie Mac could intentionally limit refinances to protect the value of its retained inverse floaters. The FHFA IG reviewed the practice and Freddie Mac’s portfolio and determined that (i) inverse floaters represent a small portion of Freddie Mac’s capital markets portfolio, (ii) inverse floaters pose no greater conflict than do any other mortgages held by Freddie Mac, and (iii) Freddie Mac employs an “information wall” to prevent the use of nonpublic information—including information about refinancing activity—from being used in investment decisions.