WASHINGTON ― As President-elect Donald Trump’s economic team forms, it continues to be highly favorable to a key billionaire hedge fund donor who backed his candidacy when most on Wall Street wouldn’t touch him.
On Friday, Trump’s transition team announced his selection of Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) as the nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget. Earlier this year, Mulvaney introduced legislation blocking payments by the housing lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to funds that support low income housing unless both Fannie and Freddie are recapitalized and released.
This is exactly the policy desired by hedge fund billionaire John Paulson, head of Paulson & Co., among other large investors. He feted Trump for a fundraiser in June at a chic midtown French restaurant built into the Bloomberg building where he donated $250,000 to support the campaign. He then led Trump’s economic advisers for the remainder of the campaign and now sits on the transition team advising him on economic policy.
When the housing market tanked and the Great Recession of 2007-2009 began, the federal government took over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, both deeply underwater, sending their stock prices plummeting. The Obama administration has since insisted on keeping the housing lenders under government authority and has redirected their profits into government coffers.
During this time speculators like Paulson bought up stock at bargain basement prices and began lobbying the government to end federal control and oversight of the lenders and then recapitalize them and release them back to the private market. Such a policy would, undoubtedly, send the stock price soaring and those who had tens of millions worth of penny-stock would see billions in profit ― including Paulson. Trump had invested between $3 million and $15 million into Paulson’s funds, according to the president-elect’s most recent disclosure report filed in May.
So far, Trump’s picks for his economic team are all supporters of recapitalization and release. His choice for Treasury secretary, former Goldman Sachs banker Steve Mnuchin, is a well-known proponent of releasing Fannie and Freddie from government control. Mulvaney’s selection as budget director is another win for investors who support the release of the housing lenders.
There could still be bumps in the road for the release of Fannie and Freddie from Trump’s friends in Congress. Both Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) have different ideas about what to do with the housing lenders. Corker supported an Obama administration plan to essentially eliminate Fannie and Freddie and replace them with a system relying on private loans. Hensarling, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, simply wants to eliminate the lenders over the course of five years.
Hensarling did endorse the selection of Mulvaney as OMB director calling him, “a tireless advocate for the American taxpayer.”
One thing is clear; Wall Street is paying attention to Trump’s cabinet picks. The stock prices for both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have increased by over 100 percent since before the Nov. 8 election.