In contrast to Citigroup executives at yesterday’s Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission hearing, ex-Fannie chief executive Daniel Mudd took a somewhat remorseful stance in his opening statements this morning. “I was the CEO of the company and I accept responsibility for everything that happened on my watch,” he said, straightaway. He then explained how it was really not actually his fault, though.
Sure, the company under him guaranteed trillions of dollars of really whacked loans, Mudd explained, but he “begs to differ” with a former regulator of the company’s assessment that that was because of a “failure of leadership” and a “deeply rooted … culture of arrogance and greed.”
It wasn’t really him that was the problem, he explained. It was Fannie Mae. The whole setup. The government expected it to be this benevolent force that would lend money to poor people so they could buy houses, like Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed did in Its A Wonderful Life, and expected that was going to make money. But that is ludicrous, Mudd realizes now, a million years after accepting the job and thinking, I can totally do this. Alas, overachiever though he may be (his written testimony even contains a reference to a high-school English-class staple: “When prices crashed far beyond the realm of historical experience, it became ‘The Pit and the Pendulum,’ a choice between horrible alternatives”), even Mudd could not help this crazy company, much to his chagrin.
“I wish I could have maintained the delicate balance of the roles assigned to Fannie Mae, and I am sorry that I did not.”
At least he tried. Man likes a challenge. Is that so wrong?