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Guaranteed to Fail:
Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Debacle of Mortgage Finance
Viral V. Acharya, Matthew Richardson, Stijn Van Nieuwerburgh & Lawrence J. White

Hardcover | 2011 | $24.95 | £19.95 | ISBN: 9780691150789
232 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
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A Q&A with Matthew Richardson

Play video. (Matthew Richardson on The Daily Show)

Viral V. Acharya
Play audio.
(VoxEU interview with Viral V. Acharya)

The financial collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2008 led to one of the most sweeping government interventions in private financial markets in history. The bailout has already cost American taxpayers close to $150 billion, and substantially more will be needed. The U.S. economy--and by extension, the global financial system--has a lot riding on Fannie and Freddie. They cannot fail, yet that is precisely what these mortgage giants are guaranteed to do. How can we limit the damage to our economy, and avoid making the same mistakes in the future?

Guaranteed to Fail explains how poorly designed government guarantees for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac led to the debacle of mortgage finance in the United States, weighs different reform proposals, and provides sensible, practical recommendations. Despite repeated calls for tougher action, Washington has expanded the scope of its guarantees to Fannie and Freddie, fueling more and more housing and mortgages all across the economy--and putting all of us at risk. This book unravels the dizzyingly immense, highly interconnected businesses of Fannie and Freddie. It proposes a unique model of reform that emphasizes public-private partnership, one that can serve as a blueprint for better organizing and managing government-sponsored enterprises like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In doing so, Guaranteed to Fail strikes a cautionary note about excessive government intervention in markets.


"[Guaranteed to Fail] is more multi-dimensional and nuanced than most other books on the bloody crossroads where real estate and banking meet. . . . [The] authors show convincingly that the GSEs' subprime lending was not a noble idea that eventually went wrong or drifted into excesses--it was a fool's errand from the beginning."--Financial Times

"[A] valuable book on how two quasi-public companies became 'the world's largest and most leveraged hedge fund'. . . . A balanced study, [Guaranteed to Fail] rises above a clash between partisans on the right--who call the companies 'ground zero' in the meltdown--and those on the left who blame deregulation and Wall Street excess. . . . Part primer, part policy prescription, the text explains in simple language what these entities are, how they got so big, and why we must fix them."--James Pressley, Bloomberg News

"In Guaranteed to Fail, a quartet of New York University professors from its Stern School of Business, focus on the 'debacle of mortgage finance' that Fannie and Freddie helped create, and offer a plan for reform. In clear language, and with plenty of data to support their arguments, the authors provide a concise but comprehensive history of the GSEs--which alone makes their book worth reading."--Barron's

"Guaranteed to Fail: Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Debacle of Mortgage Finance, stands out among all the others. . . . [I]t is one of the very few books to focus squarely on the ultimate cause of the crisis: US government housing policy and the role of the two government-backed mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae in giving effect to that policy."--Stephen Kirchner, The Conversation (Australia)

"[T]hought-provoking."--Gillian Tett, Financial Times

"[T]he authors provide a detailed template for reform."--The Economist

More reviews

Table of Contents:

Acknowledgments ix
Prologue 1
CHAPTER ONE: Feeding the Beast 11
CHAPTER TWO: Ticking Time Bomb 31
CHAPTER THREE: Race to the Bottom 41
CHAPTER FOUR: Too Big to Fail 61
CHAPTER FIVE: End of Days 80
CHAPTER SIX: In Bed with the Fed 99
CHAPTER SEVEN: How Others Do It 115
CHAPTER EIGHT: How to Reform a Broken System 132
CHAPTER NINE: Chasing the Dragon 165
Appendix: Timeline of U.S. Housing Finance Milestones 183
Notes 187
Glossary 207
Index 211

Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Lawrence J. White:


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