Other related entities > Item 1 - Purpose and Function of Our Government - General > PART I > 2021 Government 10-K

Other related entities

Published on Mon, May 17, 2021 9:00AM PDT | Updated Mon, May 17, 2021 9:14AM PDT

The entities discussed in this section are legally separate from our Government but are related to it in important ways, generally through subsidies or other transactions with our Government and either explicit or implicit guarantees of these organizations by our Government. Transactions between these entities and our Government are included in our financial statements, while the financial statements of these entities themselves are excluded.

The Federal Reserve8

The Federal Reserve System, created by Congress in 1913, is the US central bank. Although the Federal Reserve is supervised by Congress, its monetary policy decisions aren’t subject to approval either by Congress or the president. It carries out the following functions:

  • conducts monetary policy with the twin goals of ensuring full employment and low and stable inflation;
  • supervises and regulates commercial banks to ensure the safety and soundness of the financial system and to protect the credit rights of consumers;
  • maintains the stability of the financial system and contains so-called systemic risk; and
  • provides financial services to banks and the federal government.

The Federal Reserve aims to keep US employment at the highest level consistent with low and stable inflation. It currently has an inflation goal of 2%. It seeks to meet its goals by influencing the level of interest rates, or the cost of borrowing money, across the economy. Lower interest rates stimulate the economy by encouraging consumers to buy goods and employers to invest in equipment. Higher rates cool the economy by discouraging consumption and investment.

The Federal Reserve influences borrowing costs by using tools to maintain a target range for the federal funds rate, or the rate that banks pay to borrow from one another in the overnight money markets. (Banks must borrow overnight funds if the amount of money they hold in reserve at the Federal Reserve falls short of the level required by the central bank.) The federal funds rate, in turn, influences a broad array of interest rates for consumer and business credit, from corporate loans to mortgages. The Federal Reserve uses the following tools to target the federal funds rate:

  • Open-market operations – The central bank buys and sells short-term Treasury securities from banks. In doing so, it influences the overall level of reserves in the banking system, which in turn affects the price of reserves, or the federal funds rate.
  • Interest on excess reserves – The Federal Reserve is empowered by Congress to pay interest on the reserves that banks hold at the central bank in excess of the required level. By paying interest on excess reserves, the Federal Reserve encourages banks to keep that money on deposit at the central bank, rather than lend it out to consumers or businesses.

The Federal Reserve has other tools for influencing longer-term interest rates. These include:

  • Large-scale asset purchases – During the 2008 financial crisis, the Federal Reserve cut the federal funds rate almost to zero, but longer-term rates remained higher than it wanted. In response, the Federal Reserve started buying trillions of dollars of longer-term Treasury securities and housing debt, pushing down the yields on those securities.
  • Forward guidance – After each policy meeting, the Federal Reserve issues a statement describing its view of the economy and explaining its current policy stance. These statements may contain language about the outlook for the federal funds rate, which can influence the level of longer-term rates.
  • Quarterly forecasts – In addition to its policy statements, the Federal Reserve announces policy makers’ forecasts for the federal funds rate and the pace of economic growth, inflation, and the unemployment rate. These quarterly forecasts affect investor perceptions of the future path of interest rates.

The Federal Reserve System is composed of the seven-person Board of Governors, which is based in Washington, D.C., and 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks based in major cities across the country, from Boston to San Francisco. Together, the members of the Board of Governors and five presidents of regional Federal Reserve Banks make up the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), which conducts monetary policy.

The Federal Reserve receives no appropriations from Congress, and its income consists primarily of interest earned on its holdings of Treasury and other US government agency securities. By law, national banks are members of the Federal Reserve System. State-chartered banks that meet certain requirements may also choose to join. Member banks must subscribe to stock in the regional Reserve Banks. The profits of the Federal Reserve are contributed to the Treasury and are included in non-tax revenues in our income statements.

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Government-sponsored enterprises

A government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) is a financial services corporation created by the US Congress for public policy purposes. Its intended function is to enhance the availability, and reduce the cost of, credit to the targeted borrowing sectors, primarily agriculture, home finance, and education.

Government-sponsored enterprise financial statements are not included in our financial statements because GSEs are private companies. However, because of their public purpose, we discuss them here. In addition, though they are not government entities, our Government may help determine policy, provide oversight, and appoint board members to the organizations. Even though GSE securities are not explicitly backed by the federal government, their importance to our Government may lead them to be implicitly backed; our Government may bail them out if they are in financial distress, as was done in 2008 with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (see Conservatorship below). Within our combined income statements, payments for these bailouts are included in economy and infrastructure within Promote the general welfare expenditures if they are general purpose bailouts made directly to financial institutions or in each respective segment’s expenditures if the bailout relates to a specific area. For example, housing bailouts are in general housing support expenditures, while student loan bailouts are in education expenditures, both within Secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity expenditures. In addition, certain of these GSEs receive considerable federal and state and local tax benefits.

GSEs consist of Federal Home Loan Banks, the Federal National Mortgage Association, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, the Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corporation, the Farm Credit System, the Financing Corporation, and the Resolution Funding Corporation. They also included the Student Loan Marketing Association until it was fully privatized in the fourth quarter of 2004. The most significant of these GSEs are described below.

Federal Home Loan Banks9

The 11 Federal Home Loan Banks (FHLBanks) are federally-chartered but privately capitalized and independently managed. The FHLBanks serve the public by providing a readily available, low-cost source of funds to FHLBank member banks through advances, which in turn loan money to local institutions that lend directly to borrowers. These funds may be used for residential mortgages, community investments, and other services for housing and community development. In addition, some of the banks provide member banks with a means of enhancing liquidity by purchasing home mortgages through mortgage programs developed for their member banks. Member banks can also borrow from an FHLBank to fund low-income housing. As of December 31, 2020, 2019, and 2018, the FHLBanks had outstanding advances of $423 billion, $642 billion, and $729 billion, respectively.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), an independent agency in the executive branch of the US government, supervises and regulates the FHLBanks. The Housing Act created the FHFA with regulatory authority over FHLBank issues such as: board of director composition, executive compensation, risk-based capital standards and prompt corrective action enforcement provisions, membership eligibility for community development financial institutions, and low-income housing goals. The FHFA’s mission, with respect to the FHLBanks, is to ensure that the FHLBanks operate in a safe and sound manner so that the FHLBanks serve as a reliable source of liquidity and funding for housing finance and community investment.

The FHLBanks are exempt from all corporate federal, state, and local taxation, except for local real estate tax. However, by regulation, the FHLBanks must annually set aside for the Affordable Housing Program (AHP) the greater of the aggregate of $100 million or 10% of each individual FHLBank’s income subject to assessment. An AHP subsidizes the cost of owner-occupied housing provided that the household’s income may not exceed 80% of the area median income, and in the case of rental housing, the household’s income in at least 20% of the units may not exceed 50% of the area median income. The subsidy may be in the form of a grant or an advance with a reduced interest rate. AHP funds are primarily available through a competitive application program at each of the FHLBanks. AHP assessments were $315 million, $362 million, and $404 million for the years ended December 31, 2020, 2019, and 2018, respectively.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

Fannie Mae10

The Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) is a GSE that was chartered by Congress in 1938, and in 1968 became a publicly traded company. Its public mission is to support liquidity and stability in the secondary mortgage market, where existing mortgage-related assets are purchased and sold, and to increase the supply of affordable housing. Its charter does not permit it to originate loans or lend money directly to consumers in the primary mortgage market.

Fannie Mae provides reliable, large-scale access to affordable mortgage credit and indirectly enables families to buy, refinance, or rent homes. Fannie Mae securitizes mortgage loans originated by lenders by placing the loans in a trust and issuing Fannie Mae mortgage-backed securities (MBS) comprising these securitized loans, which it then guarantees (Fannie Mae MBS). One of its key functions is to evaluate, price, and manage the credit risk on the loans and securities that it guarantees.

Mortgage loans purchased or securitized by Fannie Mae must meet minimum standards required by its charter:

  • conform to maximum original principal limits, known as “conforming loan limits,” which are established each year based on the average prices of one-family residences; and
  • include credit enhancement on any single-family conventional mortgage loan if the loan-to-value ratio is greater than 80% at the time of purchase. Credit enhancement can take one or more of the following forms: (1) insurance or guarantee by a qualified insurer of the over-80% portion of the unpaid principal balance of the mortgage; (2) a seller’s agreement to repurchase or replace the mortgage in the event of default; or (3) retention by the seller of at least a 10% participation interest in the mortgage. Regardless of the loan-to-value ratio, the Fannie Mae charter does not require credit enhancement to purchase or securitize loans insured by Federal Housing Administration or guaranteed by the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

Fannie Mae has two primary sources of revenue: (1) the guarantee fees received for managing the credit risk on loans underlying Fannie Mae MBS held by third parties, and (2) the difference between interest income earned on the assets in the retained mortgage portfolio and the interest expense associated with the debt that funds those assets. It also obtains funds to support its business activities by issuing a variety of debt securities in the domestic and international capital markets, which attract global capital to the US housing market.

Fannie Mae is subject to the GSE Act, including government regulation and oversight. The FHFA has general supervisory and regulatory authority over Fannie Mae.

Freddie Mac11

The Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) is a publicly-traded GSE chartered by Congress in 1970 with a public mission to provide liquidity, stability, and affordability to the US housing market. Freddie Mac does this primarily by purchasing residential mortgages originated by mortgage lenders. In most instances, Freddie Mac will package these mortgage loans into MBS, which are guaranteed by Freddie Mac and sold in the global capital markets. In addition to selling MBS, Freddie Mac also invests in mortgage loans and mortgage-related securities. Freddie Mac’s charter does not permit it to originate mortgage loans or lend money directly to consumers in the primary mortgage market.

Freddie Mac supports the US housing market and the overall economy by: (1) providing America’s families with access to mortgage funding at lower rates; (2) helping distressed borrowers keep their homes and avoid foreclosure; and (3) providing consistent liquidity to the multifamily mortgage market, which includes providing financing for affordable rental housing. Freddie Mac is also working with FHFA, its customers and the industry to build a stronger housing finance system for the nation.

Net interest income, comprising interest income (which includes income from loan guarantee fees) less interest expense, is Freddie Mac’s primary source of revenue.


On September 6, 2008, the FHFA used its authority to place Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into conservatorship. This was in response to a substantial deterioration in the housing markets that severely damaged Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s financial condition and left them unable to fulfill their mission without government intervention.

A key component of the conservatorships is the commitment of the Treasury to provide financial support to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to enable them to continue to provide liquidity and stability to the mortgage market. The Treasury has provided $190 billion in support.

In accordance with the Federal Housing Enterprises Financial Safety and Soundness Act of 1992 as amended, FHFA is authorized to “take such action as may be: (i) necessary to put the regulated entity in a sound and solvent condition; and (ii) appropriate to carry on the business of the regulated entity and preserve and conserve the assets and property of the regulated entity.”

While FHFA has broad authority over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the focus of the conservatorships is not to manage every aspect of their operations. Instead, FHFA leadership reconstituted Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s boards of directors in 2008 and charged them with ensuring that normal corporate governance practices and procedures are in place. The boards are responsible for carrying out normal board functions, which are subject to FHFA review and approval on critical matters. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac continue to operate legally as business corporations and must follow the laws and regulations governing financial disclosure, including the requirements of the SEC.

According to FHFA, long-term, continued operation in a government-run conservatorship is not sustainable for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac because each company lacks capital, cannot rebuild its capital base, and is operating on a remaining, finite line of capital from taxpayers. Until Congress determines the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the housing finance market, FHFA will continue to carry out its responsibilities as Conservator.

Farm Credit System13

The Farm Credit System (Farm Credit) is a nationwide network of 71 independent customer-owned lending institutions, providing more than $315 billion in loans, leases, and related services to more than 500,000 customers. Farm Credit helps rural communities and agriculture grow and thrive by providing reliable, consistent credit and financial services, including loans, leases, and financial services to farmers, ranchers, and rural businesses across the US and in Puerto Rico.

Farm Credit raises funds by selling debt securities on the nation's money markets through the Federal Farm Credit Banks Funding Corporation. Farm Credit debt is insured by the Farm Credit System Insurance Corporation, a self-funded insurance entity. Once the Funding Corporation issues debt securities on behalf of all Farm Credit institutions, Farm Credit's four regional wholesale banks, AgFirstAgriBankCoBank, and Farm Credit Bank of Texas then fund the individual Farm Credit associations who support farmers, ranchers, and rural homebuyers. In addition to funding local retail associations, CoBank also uses the proceeds from Farm Credit debt securities to make loans directly to farmer-owned cooperatives, rural infrastructure providers, and other agribusinesses. 

Farmer Mac14

The Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corporation (Farmer Mac) is designated by statute as a Farm Credit institution but is different from other Farm Credit institutions in several respects. In general, most Farm Credit institutions are primary lenders to farmers and ranchers and other borrowers in rural America. In contrast, Farmer Mac serves as a secondary market for lenders that extend credit in rural America. Also, Farmer Mac is a stockholder-owned company while the other Farm Credit institutions are organized as cooperatives.

Farmer Mac is a stockholder-owned, federally chartered corporation that combines private capital and public sponsorship to serve a public purpose: providing a secondary market for a variety of loans made to borrowers in rural America. In a secondary market, the owners of financial assets, such as the originators of loans, may sell all or part of those assets or pay a fee to otherwise offset some or all of the inherent risks of holding the assets. This secondary market is designed to increase the availability of credit at stable interest rates to America’s rural communities and to provide rural borrowers with the benefits of capital markets pricing and product innovation.

Farmer Mac’s main secondary market activities are:

  • purchasing eligible loans directly from lenders;
  • providing advances against eligible loans by purchasing obligations secured by those loans;
  • securitizing assets and guaranteeing the payment of principal and interest on the resulting securities that represent interests in, or obligations secured by, pools of eligible loans; and
  • issuing long-term standby purchase commitments for eligible loans.

Farmer Mac funds its purchases of eligible loans (including participation interests in eligible loans) and guaranteed securities primarily by issuing debt obligations in the public capital markets. As of December 31, 2020, its total outstanding business volume was $22 billion.