Bethany McLean on Fannie Mae: The Noriega Model

In a loo-ooong piece in the February issue of Vanity Fair, ace financial reporter Bethany McLean digs deep into the Fannie Mae story and comes up with some unsettling stuff. Her conclusion, however, should be familiar: There is no smoking gun per se; there is plenty of blame to go around; and taxpayers are going to be screwed.

I did like this snippet:

The fight became both nasty and personal in early 2004, when [Fannie Mae CEO] Raines sent what one person calls a “fuck you” letter to [Bush chief of staff] Andrew Card. This came about after the homebuilders complained to Raines that Card had told them Raines had agreed to regulatory compromises the homebuilders didn’t want. After that the White House took on Fannie and Freddie in an organized, orchestrated way that was akin to how Fannie itself had long operated. Some of those on the inside jokingly referred to their assault as “Noriega”—as in Manuel Noriega, the former Panamanian dictator and drug kingpin whom the U.S. military blasted with loud, incessant rock music during its attempt to get him to leave a Vatican compound and surrender.

Read the whole thing.