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Industry Reacts to New Acting FHFA Director

Sandra Thompson (FHFA)

The White House has appointed Sandra L. Thompson, a veteran housing and banking regulator, as the Acting Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) effective immediately, the FHFA said in a statement.

Thompson​ has served as Deputy Director of the Division of Housing Mission and Goals (DHMG) at FHFA since 2013. In that time Thompson oversaw FHFA’s housing and regulatory policy, capital policy, financial analysis, fair lending and all mission activities for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Banks.

“I am honored that President Biden has designated me to be Acting Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency until a permanent Director is confirmed,” Thompson said. “I look forward to serving in this role at this crucial time. As a longtime regulator, I am committed to making sure our nation’s housing finance systems and our regulated entities operate in a safe and sound manner. We can accomplish this, and at the same time have a laser focus on mission and community investment."

Ed Delgado, Managing Director, Mortgage Policy Advisors and Chairman of Five Star Global (DS News' parent company) expressed support for Thompson's appointment

“I have had the privilege of working with Ms. Thompson for several years, from her service at the FDIC to her most recent role as Deputy Director, of FHFA's Division of Housing Mission and Goals, " Delgado said. "I know Ms. Thompson to be a respected and admired leader, who will foster the right tone at FHFA as interim director. She is a force for good who will continue her mission to ensure the safety and soundness of the U.S. housing system."

This appointment comes on the heels of Wednesday's United States Supreme Court ruling that the leadership structure of the Federal FHFA was unconstitutional, a violation of the separation of powers principle, and President Joe Biden's subsequent removal of Director Mark Calabria Wednesday afternoon.

Calabria in a statement said he respects the Court's decision and the authority of the President to remove him from the post and remarked that since his 2019 appointment he saw the FHFA through everything from "record-low unemployment and a strong housing market, to a pandemic-triggered recession that spared house prices but contracted supply." He says the FHFA during the past year "provid[ed] relief to homeowners and renters impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic."

He added that "much work remains" and wished his "successor all the best in fixing the remaining flaws of the housing finance system in order to preserve homeownership opportunities for all Americans.​"

White House officials yesterday said Calabria's replacement would be someone "who supports the administration’s priorities on housing policy," something Thompson touched on in her statement Wednesday night.

"There is a widespread lack of affordable housing and access to credit, especially in communities of color," she said. "It is FHFA’s duty through our regulated entities to ensure that all Americans have equal access to safe, decent, and affordable housing.”

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were placed into government conservatorship in September 2008 and FHFA formed to serve as their regulator. As is the rule for such agencies, Congress created a leadership position to run the outfit—once nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate, the Director haa fixed term and could be dismissed only for cause by the sitting President. 

The Court last December took up the Collins v. Yellen case (then, Collins v. Mnuchin), and in Wednesday's split decision it held that a provision the Recovery Act preventing the Director from being fired for reasons other than misconduct or neglect violated the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches, and the justices concluded that the appropriate remedy for the constitutional violation was to sever the removal restriction from the rest of the Act.

"The Mortgage Bankers Association [MBA] has worked with the Acting Director extensively in the past and looks forward to continuing this relationship as she addresses a variety of housing finance issues, including the conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac," said MBA President and CEO Bob Broeksmit, CMB. "This will include protecting taxpayers, serving the GSEs' affordable housing mission, and ensuring a stable secondary mortgage market for a wide variety of single-family and multifamily lenders, regardless of size or business model."

FHFA today is responsible for oversight of the $7.2 trillion mortgage finance market.

Prior to joining FHFA, Thompson worked at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), for more than 23 years in a variety of leadership positions, most recently as Director, Division of Risk Management Supervision. During her time at FDIC, Thompson led the Agency’s examination and enforcement program for risk management and consumer protection at the height of the financial crisis. She also led the FDIC’s outreach initiatives in response to a crisis of consumer confidence in the banking system. Her experiences range from supervision to consumer protection, risk management, and consumer outreach activities.

About Author: Christina Hughes Babb

Christina Hughes Babb is a reporter for DS News and MReport. A graduate of Southern Methodist University, she has been a reporter, editor, and publisher in the Dallas area for more than 15 years. During her 10 years at Advocate Media and Dallas Magazine, she published thousands of articles covering local politics, real estate, development, crime, the arts, entertainment, and human interest, among other topics. She has won two national Mayborn School of Journalism Ten Spurs awards for nonfiction, and has penned pieces for Texas Monthly, Salon.com, Dallas Observer, Edible, and the Dallas Morning News, among others. Contact Christina at christina.hughesbabb@thefivestar.com.
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