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Financial Regulation: Review of Selected Operations of the Federal Housing Finance Board

GAO-03-364 February 28, 2003
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The Federal Home Loan Bank System (System) faces additional risks due to the development of new products such as direct mortgage purchase programs. Responding to concern about the methods used for administrative decisionmaking, and the ability of the Federal Housing Finance Board (FHFB) to fulfill its critical mission to regulate the safety and soundness of the System, GAO was asked to (1) compare the FHFB chair’s administrative authorities with those of other financial regulators and discuss the basis for that authority, (2) assess FHFB’s compliance with selected statutes and regulations in connection with an August 2002 reduction-in-force (RIF) carried out as part of an agency reorganization, and (3) assess FHFB’s progress in enhancing its FHLBank safety and soundness examination program.

FHFB’s chair has greater authority to make key administrative decisions than the chairs at five of the six other financial regulators GAO reviewed. FHFB’s chair has the authority to appoint and remove officials and reorganize the agency without a vote by the board. In contrast, statutes, regulations, and practices limit the chairs’ authorities at most other regulators. In particular, the boards or commissions at these agencies approve most senior-level appointments and several boards approve major reorganizations.

In 1998, and again in 2002, GAO found that FHFB performed limited reviews of FHLBank functions that are critical in managing the banks’ financial and operational risks. Among other changes announced in 2002, FHFB plans to increase the number of examiners from 10 to 24 and revise its examination approach to focus on the major risks and quality of controls at each FHLBank. Although these changes have the potential to improve FHFB’s examination program, it is too soon to assess their effectiveness.

TEAM:  Government Accountability Office: Financial Markets and Community Investment