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House Postpones Vote on Proposal to Cap Salaries of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac CEOs

Fannie-Freddie-logos-twoThe U.S. House of Representatives has postponed voting on a bill that will limit the salaries of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac CEOs due to a hefty lineup of other legislation, including voting on a new Speaker of the House.

The vote was originally scheduled to take place last week.

H.R. 2243, also known as the Equity in Government Compensation Act of 2015, was introduced by U.S. Congressman Ed Royce (R-California) in May in response to a proposal by Mel Watt, Director of the FHFA (the GSEs' conservator). Watt proposed new executive compensation plans for Fannie Mae CEO Timothy Mayopoulos and Freddie Mac CEO Donald Layton that could raise their pay as high as the 25th percentile of the market, which computes to about $7.26 million per year.  The SEC outlined that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac CEOs' direct compensation will consist of an annual base salary of $750,000, fixed deferred salary at an annual rate of $2.05 million, and at-risk deferred salary with an annual target amount of $1.2 million, totaling $4 million.

Watt said in a statement in July that the purpose of the pay raises was to "promote CEO retention, allow reliable succession planning, and ensure the continuity, efficiency and stability" at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

"Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could stand to benefit institutionally from pay raises," said Ed Delgado, President and CEO of the Five Star Institute. "The GSEs carry the weight of the mortgage industry and competitive compensation plans will enable them to be aggressive in terms of retaining intellectual capital."

The cap on GSE CEO pay of $600,000 a year was originally installed by Watt's predecessor, Ed DeMarco, more than three years ago after four years of conservatorship. Royce's bill would suspend Watt's proposed compensation packages for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac executives and would limit their salaries to the highest level paid at the FHFA, which the Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2011 to be $255,000 per year. It would also place non-executive GSE employees on the General Schedule (GS) pay scale, where the most they could earn annually would be $132,122.

The bill passed in the House Financial Services Committee by a vote of 57-1 on July 29 with enormous bipartisan support.

"I think it is entirely legitimate for the executives at those institutions to be subject to compensation limits."

—White House Secretary Josh Earnest

Royce said in a statement on his website that it is "unconscionable" that Freddie Mac would elevate the pay of its CEO to that level while taxpayers are still on the hook. The fact that the GSEs are still under conservatorship of the FHFA, where they have been since September 2008, is still a contentious topic among politicians and stakeholders in the housing market.

The Senate version of the bill, or S.236, co-sponsored by Sen. David Vitter (R-Louisiana) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and was passed unanimously in September.

The Department of Treasury opposes the FHFA's approach to the GSEs' CEO compensation and "urged the agency to reject any increase. Treasury has consistently recommended that existing limits on compensation continue."

The White House is also for the pay limits on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac CEO's salaries. "I think it is entirely legitimate for the executives at those institutions to be subject to compensation limits," stated White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.

The bill is due to be voted on later in November.

Editor's note: The Five Star Institute is the parent company of DS News and DSNews.com.

About Brian Honea

Brian Honea's writing and editing career spans nearly two decades across many forms of media. He served as sports editor for two suburban newspaper chains in the DFW area and has freelanced for such publications as the Yahoo! Contributor Network, Dallas Home Improvement magazine, and the Dallas Morning News. He has written four non-fiction sports books, the latest of which, The Life of Coach Chuck Curtis, was published by the TCU Press in December 2014. A lifelong Texan, Brian received his master's degree from Amberton University in Garland.

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