Ackman, Berkowitz seeks to recover equity in Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac before US takeover

November 18
9:32 AM 2013

According to a Bloomberg article, investors Bill Ackman and Bruce Berkowitz had been attempting to salvage their equity on US government-sponsored The Federal National Mortgage Association. Once a publicly-traded company, Fannie Mae was one of the few government-sponsored enterprises that were in a financial slump due to the housing bubble.

Although both Ackman and Berkowitz taken taken different approaches to get their money back on their holdings in Fannie and and Freddie Mac, or Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, their main goal was to salvage over USD100 billion in combined value of securities before the financial crisis occurred. Freddie mac is also another government-sponsored enterprise. According to a Bloomberg report, many had deemed the securities worthless when the US government had stepped in.

Senior economist Nela Richardson with Bloomberg Government said, "It's risky as the odds are stacked against these investors in the short-term. This is the biggest hot-button issue after Obamacare and there's little chance of reform now. However it may pay off in the long term for the investors."

On November 15, Ackman via his USD2 billion hedge fund firm Pershing Square Capital Management LP said it had acquired a 9.98% stake in Fannie Mae shares that were not owned by the US government and a 9.77% interest in public Freddie Mac shares. The combined value of the holdings totaled USD577 million at the end of the previous week. Pershing intended to negotiate with the government, Freddie Mac management, and shareholders regarding the matter.

Two days earlier, Berkowitz through his USD10.5 billion mutual fund firm Fairholme Capital Management LLC proposed that the firm and other preferred shareholders will buy the mortgage insurance units of both Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, leaving Ackman and the holders of common shares with their interests in the companies.

Ackman refused to comment on Bloomberg's article. In an email sent last week to the news agency, Berkowitz said, "Every day, I put myself in the shoes of the shareholder, invest for the long run, do what I say I'm going to do and stick to it without consequence of what people may say or what the optics may look like. That's my job. That's what I get paid for. And that's what I'm going to keep doing."

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