The quasi-private mortgage-finance company, Fannie Mae, posted a $58.7 billion profit in the first quarter, thanks to recognition of a tax benefit worth $50.6 billion. Fannie Mae generated $8.1 billion in pretax earnings in the first quarter as well. And all of it will be returned to U.S. taxpayers when the firm writes check to the Treasury Department.
The tax benefit is the result of Fannie Mae’s reversal of earlier write-downs on deferred-tax assets. Because the company did not expect to earn a profit, the assets were worthless. Now, however, the tide has changed because Fannie believes that its new-found profitability will continue for the foreseeable future, as fewer borrowers default on their mortgage payments and new, more creditworthy buyers enter the housing market.
Following this payment, Fannie Mae will have repaid $95 billion to the Treasury of a total of $116.1 billion the company received as a bailout following the financial crisis of 2008. Fannie’s smaller brother, Freddie Mac, has repaid $36.6 billion on a total bailout of $71.3 billion.
Because the government bailout of the two firms did not offer either a way to redeem the federal government’s shares, Fannie and Freddie are now making payments on loans that can never be paid off completely.