A LOT OF NUMBERS ARE getting thrown around as Congress gears up to determine the fate of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: the $150 billion in Treasury aid that the GSEs have received; the $1.5 trillion combined portfolio; the lavish compensation offered to top executives. But the human element—the impact of the debate on Fannie and Freddie's employees— is often missing from the political rhetoric. And the multifamily industry is growing increasingly worried that a brain drain will occur at the GSEs given their precarious and uncertain status. “What worries me, and by extension should worry the industry, is retention of key human capital at the GSEs,” says Mike McRoberts, VP of multi family production and sales at McLean, Va.–based Freddie Mac.
In the House of Representatives, eight bills introduced by Republicans in a piecemeal approach seek to wind down different aspects of the GSEs. Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, recently sponsored legislation that would pay GSE employees on a pay scale modeled after government workers. “It isn't easy when you show up and see something that says all the Fannie and Freddie employees will now be transitioned to government wages,” admits Heidi McKibben, VP and head of multifamily for Washington, D.C.–based Fannie Mae.
Some observers say the employee exodus has already begun. “Some very talented people have left the multifamily group,” says John Cannon, EVP of agency production at Horsham, Pa.–based Berkadia. “A brain drain is already starting."
Meanwhile, the rhetoric on Capitol Hill so far hasn't dealt with the human capital issue. And while the GSEs have thus far been able to retain most of their top multifamily executives, should the brain drain accelerate, that's bad news for GSE borrowers. “If we lose our human capital, we're going to have a very difficult time providing a high level of customer service," McRoberts says.