Although most of the analysts think that their prices are almost certain to go to zero, investors are still trading common shares of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and American International Group Inc. by the billions.
The government owns the majority of all three, and they are losing huge sums of money. The Securities and Exchange Commission and other regulators don’t have the authority to end the trading of stocks in such companies that are technically alive, until the government takes them off life support.
Shares of the two mortgage giants, and the insurer have been swept up in financial stocks. The investors have been trading their shares at extraordinarily high volumes, regardless of analysts’ warnings that they’re destined to lose their money.
According to Bose George, an analyst with the investment bank Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc., people have done well by trading them in the short term, but when it gets to the end of the road, these stocks are going to be worth zero.
George said that some of the activity involves day traders aiming to profit from short-term price swings, but inexperienced investors might have the misimpression that the companies may recover or be rescued.
The government has continued to support the companies with billions of taxpayer money, saying that they still play a crucial role in the financial system.
Fannie and Freddie works by buying loans from banks and selling them to investors. They have taken around $96 billion out of a potential $400 billion in aid from the Treasury Department.
Officials predict that AIG’s failure would be disastrous for the financial markets. Treasury and the Federal Reserve have spent about $175 billion on AIG and AIG-related securities. The company also has access to $28 billion from the $700 billion financial industry bailout.
There are mainly two reasons why the stocks still remain in circulation. The first reason is that they’ve violated no rules on the New York Stock Exchange, where they are traded. And the second one is that no regulator has the power to halt their trading without evidence securities laws are being violated.
Representatives of Fannie, the SEC, AIG, FINRA and the NYSE declined to comment on the issue. Spokeswomen for Treasury, which owns most of AIG, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which holds Fannie and Freddie in conservatorship, also did not have any comments.