The Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA) (NYSE: FNM), commonly known as Fannie Mae, is a stockholder-owned corporation chartered by Congress in 1968 as a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE), but founded in 1938 during the Great Depression. The corporation's purpose is to purchase and securitize mortgages in order to ensure that funds are consistently available to the institutions that lend money to home buyers.
On September 7, 2008, James Lockhart, director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were being placed into conservatorship of the FHFA. The action is "one of the most sweeping government interventions in private financial markets in decades". As of 2008, Fannie Mae and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) owned or guaranteed about half of the U.S.'s $12 trillion mortgage market.
Fannie Mae was established in 1938 as a mechanism to make mortgages more available to low-income families. It was added to the Federal Home Mortgage association, a government agency in the wake of the Great Depression in 1938, as part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal in order to facilitate liquidity within the mortgage market. In 1968, the government converted Fannie Mae into a private shareholder-owned corporation in order to remove its activity from the annual balance sheet of the federal budget. Consequently, Fannie Mae ceased to be the guarantor of government-issued mortgages, and that responsibility was transferred to the new Government National Mortgage Association (Ginnie Mae). In 1970, the government created the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC), commonly known as Freddie Mac, to compete with Fannie Mae and, thus, facilitate a more robust and efficient secondary mortgage market. Since the creation of the GSEs, there has been debate surrounding their role in the mortgage market, their relationship with the government, and whether or not they are indeed necessary. This debate gained relevance due to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and subprime mortgage crisis that began in 2007. Despite this debate, Fannie Mae, as well as Ginnie Mae and later Freddie Mac, has played an integral part in the development of what was the most successful mortgage market in the world which has allowed U.S. citizens to benefit from one of the highest home ownership percentages in the world