Since the mortgage meltdown began in the summer of 2007, many observers have commented that government policy has seemed to lag events. Predictions about the scope of the problems in the housing and mortgage markets, and particularly how they might affect the health of the financial system, have consistently been too optimistic. One of the reasons for this is the difficulty of obtaining accurate information, even for policymakers. Fannie and Freddie, for example, have been making subprime or other nontraditional loans for at least a decade but reporting them as prime loans. These loans total approximately $1.6 trillion. As a result, 44 percent of all loans, or a total of 25 million loans, are outstanding subprime and other nontraditional loans--more than double what anyone understood at the beginning of the mortgage market collapse. Edward Pinto, a former chief credit officer for Fannie Mae, has done an extensive study of the scope of the mortgage problem and will report at this conference on what President Barack Obama will confront when he takes office on January 20.
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