How Serious Are the SEC's Charges Against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?

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Fannie Mae Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
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A series of recent filings from the Securities and Exchange Commission bring new charges against executives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The SEC claims executives misled investors about Fannie and Freddie's exposure to subprime mortgages in the two years leading up to the housing market collapse. It is unusual to hear a defense of the mortgage giants — conventional wisdom holds that their risky loans were at the heart of the financial crisis from the beginning. But writing in his New York Times op-ed columnJoe Nocera argues that the SEC's latest complaint shows "how desperate the SEC has become to bring a crowd-pleasing case."