Wednesday, May 24, 2006

FOLLOWING UP ON FANNIE MAE FINE -- It would seem the probe is opening a new chapter:
SEC Chairman Christopher Cox and acting OFHEO director James B. Lockhart III said they now will turn their focus to individuals, including Raines and Howard, to determine what role former and current executives played in the accounting fraud and if they should be forced to forfeit millions of dollars in what the regulators called "ill-gotten" compensation. They said the Justice Department is continuing a criminal probe.

"Fraudulent financial reporting cheats investors of their savings," Cox said. "Those whose actions led to the accounting fraud you've heard described today will be vigorously pursued."

Lockhart agreed. "You could argue none of it was deserved," he said in response to a question on how much of $52.8 million in bonuses Raines received during the six years might have been linked to improper accounting manipulation. As the settlement was announced, OFHEO released a 340-page report summarizing what it found in its nearly three-year probe of the company.

"The conduct of Mr. Raines, CFO Timothy Howard, and other members of the inner circle of senior executives at Fannie Mae was inconsistent with the values of responsibility, accountability, and integrity," the report said. "Those individuals engaged in improper earnings management in order to generate unjustified levels of compensation for themselves and other executives."

Raines's lawyer Robert Barnett said in a prepared statement that Raines "has repeatedly stated that he never authorized, encouraged, or was aware of violations" of accounting rules. Even so, Raines "strongly believes that, as the leader of Fannie Mae, he should be accountable for what happened within the organization, regardless of personal involvement or fault."

Howard's lawyer had no comment.