Mortgage-related trade organizations have begun to weigh in on Uniform Mortgage-Backed Security (UMBS) pooling practices, responding to a Request for Input (RFI) released by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). In order to function properly, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac state that the UMBS will require alignment between the GSE’s pools in order to work properly, and to address this, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) released a request for input on a proposal to further align Fannie and Freddie’s pooling practices.
In a statement at the launch of UMBS, Renee Schultz, SVP, Capital Markets, Fannie Mae said, “We remain focused on ensuring that all market participants continue to make a smooth transition to UMBS and maintaining a highly liquid housing finance market.”
In their letter to the FHFA, ABA indicated that what is currently proposed for the TBA market should be reconsidered. According to ABA, “the approaches detailed in the RFI will not result in enhanced liquidity in the TBA market, will diminish the specified pool and CMO markets, and will cause harm to virtually every market participant, leading to higher costs or reduced access to credit that will ultimately impact mortgage borrowers.”
ABA’s focus on the TBA market is an opinion shared by other organizations. In an Urban Institute report authored in part by former FHFA Special Advisor Bob Ryan, Ryan discusses how UMBS's impact on the to-be-announced (TBA) market will be key to the security’s success.
“Ideally, by combining Fannie and Freddie’s securities, the UMBS will expand the TBA market’s liquidity, thereby improving pricing marketwide,” Urban’s report stated. “But that will happen only if the combined securities are fungible. A material divergence in the performance of Fannie and Freddie’s pools will lead investors to trade more and more in the specified and stipulated pool markets, reducing liquidity in the TBA market and thereby undermining pricing marketwide.”
MBA, meanwhile notes that the RFI’s proposed pooling process changes are not immediately clear, calling for more justification for what the organization calls “a major restructuring of a large market that is critically important to the health of broader financial markets and the global economy.”
“Before FHFA moves forward on any elements of this proposal, MBA believes the Agency must provide a more thorough explanation of the problem it is seeking to address and a more robust justification for the merits of this particular solution,” the MBA’s letter said.
In each response, avoiding misalignment between the GSEs is a priority. For MBA, this means aligning prepayment rates that will not have a potentially negative effect on pooling options, market diversity, and product availability to borrowers. ABA’s focus on alignment is centered on the TBA market, urging the FHFA to avoid taking actions that reduce the variety and optionality for investors and lenders that exists today in the TBA market.