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Federal regulators' investigation of Fannie Mae's accounting has taken a new avenue as they examine whether the mortgage giant failed to properly account for thousands of trusts it created whose assets are kept off its balance sheet.

Fannie Mae shares dropped $1.78, or 3.3 percent, to close at $51.46 in Monday trading on the New York Stock Exchange -- below their previous 52-week closing low of $53.20. Its shares are down by more than a third since September.

Fannie Mae uses the trusts to issue securities backed by the billions of dollars of home mortgages annually that it buys from lenders and bundles together for resale to investors worldwide.

Armando Falcon, director of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, told the Wall Street Journal that the agency is trying to determine the extent of a possible accounting problem with the trusts.