Record Fannie Mae profit reflects recovery


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Home prices are up. Foreclosures are down. Construction is up. And now comes the latest sign of the U.S. home market's revival: Fannie Mae, the mortgage giant that nearly collapsed five years ago, has earned its biggest yearly profit ever.

Fannie Mae earned $17.2 billion last year and said Tuesday that it expects to stay profitable for "the foreseeable future." It also paid $11.6 billion in dividends to the U.S. Treasury in 2012.

And last year was Fannie's first since its takeover by the government in 2008 that it asked for no federal aid. As recently as 2011, Fannie lost nearly $17 billion and requested and received nearly $26 billion in aid.

The speed of Fannie's resurgence is a testament to a much healthier U.S. mortgage market.

Once symbols of the reckless risk-taking that fed the housing bubble, Fannie and the smaller firm Freddie Mac were seized by the government in 2008 after they were buried by bad mortgages. Taxpayers have spent $188 billion to rescue the two -- collectively the costliest bailout of the financial crisis.

During much of the 1980s and 1990s, Fannie's stock was a darling of Wall Street, thanks in part to home-price increases and the government's implicit backing. In 1988, it was added to the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index. In 1996, Fannie reported its 10th straight year of record profits.

Pay for Fannie's top executives soared. One former CEO, Franklin Raines, received roughly $90 million in compensation from 1998 through 2003, according to Fannie's regulator. The regulator concluded that some Fannie employees had rigged accounting so the company could meet earnings targets and top executives could receive bonuses.

Fannie still has a long way to go to repay taxpayers. It received $116 billion in aid. So far, it's repaid $35.6 billion.


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