|In his speech last week, President Bush said, "the misdeeds now being uncovered in some quarters of corporate America are threatening the financial well-being of many workers and many investors."
Misdeeds have caused the likes of Anderson, Enron and WorldCom to virtually disintegrate.
"Self-regulation is important, but it's not enough," the President went on to say. "Government can do more to promote transparency and ensure that risks are honest."
Welcome to the decade of disclosure. Following a decade of deceit, investors in the U.S. and abroad are learning that a web of misplaced incentives have led some leaders of major companies to find weaknesses in the auditing process and hide corporate losses.
The nation's two largest mortgage companies apparently heard the President's speech. Following a campaign to avoid Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) disclosure requirements, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have reversed course and agreed to register some of their securities with the federal agency. The move is now irrevocable without SEC approval.
The announcement was the result of a consensus among the two government sponsored housing enterprises, the Treasury Department, the Office of Management and Budget, the SEC and the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO), according to Freddie.
Both Fannie and Freddie have said they already provide voluntary disclosures that exceed SEC requirements.
SEC Chairman Harvey L. Pitt said his agency, together with the Treasury Department and OFHEO, will begin a study of disclosure requirements applicable to mortgage backed securities (MBS) -- which are not subject to this agreement. Fannie has $945.1 billion in outstanding MBS as of June 30. Freddie reported total participation certificates of $1 trillion at March 31, 2002.
"MBA members believe that their (Fannie's & Freddie's) debt, equity and mortgage backed securities disclosure should at least meet the standards applied by the SEC to private companies that issue securities," said Jim Murphy, chairman of the Mortgage Bankers Association of America. "We look forward to future steps that will meet that objective."
The SEC's Pitt said the two companies "will file, for example, complete, audited 10-K annual reports, 10-Q quarterly reports, and 8-Ks regarding current events affecting them. All of these reports will be subject to the same review and comment that our staff applies to all other publicly held companies."