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Greenspan Goes Conceptual

Tuesday, Feb. 24

Greenspan testified before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing & Urban AffairsWhat he said: "Why do [government-sponsored enterprises, or GSEs] Fannie [Mae] and Freddie [Mac] now generate such substantial concern? The unease relates mainly to the scale and growth of the mortgage-related asset portfolios held on their balance sheets....

"Importantly, the [GSEs'] scale itself has reinforced investors' perceptions that, in the event of a crisis involving Fannie and Freddie, policymakers would have little alternative than to have the taxpayers explicitly stand behind the debt [of these mortgage-finance firms]. This view is widespread in the marketplace despite the privatization of Fannie and Freddie and their control by

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