The federal conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and related efforts, along with any changes in laws and regulations affecting the relationship between these agencies and the U.S. Government, may adversely affect our business.
The payments of principal and interest we receive on the agency securities in which we invest are guaranteed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or Ginnie Mae, collectively referred to as Government Sponsored Enterprises or GSEs. The guarantees on agency securities created by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are not backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, whereas the guarantee on securities created by Ginnie Mae are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States.
In response to general market instability and, more specifically, the financial conditions of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, in July 2008, the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, or HERA, established FHFA as the new regulator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In September 2008, the U.S. Treasury, the FHFA and the U.S. Federal Reserve announced a comprehensive action plan to help stabilize the financial markets, support the availability of mortgage financing and protect taxpayers. Under this plan, among other things, the FHFA was appointed as conservator of both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, allowing the FHFA to control the actions of the two GSEs, without forcing them to liquidate, which would be the case under receivership. Importantly, the primary focus of the plan was to increase the availability of mortgage financing by allowing these GSEs to continue to grow their guarantee business without limit, while limiting the size of their retained mortgage and agency security portfolios and requiring that these portfolios be reduced over time.
Although the U.S. Government has committed to support the positive net worth of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two GSEs could default on their guarantee obligations, which would materially and adversely affect the value of our agency securities. Accordingly, if these government actions are inadequate and the GSEs suffer additional losses or cease to exist, our business, operations and financial condition could be materially and adversely affected.
In addition, the future roles of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could be significantly reduced and the nature of their guarantee obligations could be considerably limited relative to historical measurements. Any such changes to the nature of their guarantee obligations could re-define what constitutes an agency security and could have broad adverse implications for the market and our business, operations and financial condition.
Future legislation could change the relationship between Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the U.S. Government, and could also nationalize, privatize, or eliminate these entities entirely. Any law affecting these GSEs may create market uncertainty and have the effect of reducing the actual or perceived credit quality of securities issued or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Moreover, if the guarantee obligations of Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae were repudiated by FHFA, payments of principal and/or interest to holders of agency securities issued by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae would be reduced in the event of any borrower's late payments or failure to pay or a servicer's failure to remit borrower payments to the trust. In that case, trust administration and servicing fees could be paid from mortgage payments prior to distributions to holders of agency securities. Any actual direct compensatory damages owed due to the repudiation of Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae's guarantee obligations may not be sufficient to offset any shortfalls experienced by holders of agency securities.
As a result, such laws or changes could increase the risk of loss on our investments in agency mortgage investments guaranteed by Fannie Mae and/or Freddie Mac and could adversely impact the market for such securities and spreads at which they trade. All of the foregoing could materially and adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
Mortgage loan modification and refinancing programs and future legislative action may adversely affect the value of, and our returns on, agency mortgage-backed securities.
The U.S. Government has implemented a number of federal programs designed to assist homeowners, including the Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP, which provides homeowners with assistance in avoiding residential mortgage loan foreclosures, the Hope for Homeowners Program, or H4H Program, which allows certain distressed borrowers to refinance their mortgages into FHA-insured loans in order to avoid residential mortgage loan foreclosures, and the Home Affordable Refinance Program, or HARP, which for loans sold or guaranteed by the GSEs on or prior to May 31, 2009, allows borrowers who are current on their mortgage payments to refinance and reduce their monthly mortgage payments, with no current loan-to-value ratio upper limit and without requiring new mortgage insurance. HAMP, the H4H Program and other loss mitigation programs may involve, among other things, the modification of mortgage loans to reduce the principal amount of the loans (through forbearance and/or forgiveness) and/or the rate of interest payable on the loans, or the extension of payment terms of the loans. These loan modification programs, future legislative or regulatory actions, including possible amendments to the bankruptcy laws, which result in the modification of outstanding residential mortgage loans, as well as changes in the requirements necessary to qualify for refinancing mortgage loans with Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or Ginnie Mae, may adversely affect the value of, and the returns on, agency mortgage-backed securities that we may purchase.