Leadership overhaul at Fannie Mae as CEO retires, board chair resigns

Details of a major leadership overhaul at Fannie Mae have come to light, as CEO Hugh Frater is retiring and Sheila Bair, chair of the government-sponsored enterprise’s board, has announced her resignation.

Replacements, at least in the short term, are already on hand. Fannie Mae’s board unanimously elected Michael J. Heid to succeed Bair and appointed David C. Benson, the company’s current president, to the additional role of interim CEO and board member, effective May 1. Benson’s appointment is subject to approval from the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Bair cited time constraints as the impetus for her decision.

“I’ve been privileged to serve this institution and its dedicated employees as we have remained relentlessly focused on the needs of homeowners and renters through a pandemic, tumultuous market conditions and a transition in administrations,” Bair said.

“Unfortunately, I have found it difficult to meet the substantial time demands of this position while fulfilling my other board and advisory responsibilities. I am very proud of this organization’s many innovations to promote sustainable homeownership, including streamlined refinancings for low-income households, use of rental data in underwriting and a more progressive fee structure.”

Bair also praised Frater’s leadership of the past three and a half years — a period that, according to Frater, exceeded the commitment he initially made to the board when he became CEO in 2019.

“It has been the privilege of a lifetime to lead this organization,” Frater said. ”Given the strides we have made on so many fronts, this is the right time to transition to a new CEO. Dave (Benson) knows this company better than anyone else and will provide outstanding leadership, together with our new board chair Mike Heid, as the entire enterprise works together to build a more sustainable housing-finance market that better serves people across America.”

Heid served as executive vice president of home lending at Wells Fargo from 1997 until his retirement in January 2016. He also held a number of positions at the bank’s home mortgage division, including as co-president from 2004 to 2011 and as president from 2011 to 2015.

Benson, meanwhile, has held several executive leadership positions at Fannie Mae over the past two decades, including executive vice president and chief financial officer. As for a long-term replacement for Frater, the board announced that it plans to conduct a national search, although it did not give a timetable for permanently filling the job.


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