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From new deal institutions to capital markets: Commercial consumer risk scores and the making of subprime mortgage finance

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  • Poon, Martha

Abstract

The investment fueled US mortgage market has traditionally been sustained by New Deal institutions called government sponsored enterprises (GSEs). Known as Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the GSEs once dominated mortgage backed securities underwriting. The recent subprime mortgage crisis has drawn attention to the fact that during the real estate boom, these agencies were temporarily overtaken by risk tolerant channels of lending, securitization, and investment, driven by investment banks and private capital players. This research traces the movement of a specific brand of commercial consumer credit analytics into mortgage underwriting. It demonstrates that what might look like the spontaneous rise (and fall) of a 'free' market divested of direct government intervention has been thoroughly embedded in the concerted movement of calculative risk management technologies. The transformations began with a sequence of GSE decisions taken in the mid-1990's to implement a consumer risk score called a FICO® into automated underwriting systems. Having been endorsed by the GSEs, this scoring tool was gradually hardwired throughout the industry to become a distributed and collective 'market device'. As the paper will show, once modified by specific GSE interpretations the calculative properties generated by these credit bureau scores reconfigured mortgage finance into two parts: the conventional, risk-adverse, GSE conforming 'prime' and an infrastructurally distinct, risk-avaricious, investment grade 'subprime'.

Suggested Citation

  • Poon, Martha, 2009. "From new deal institutions to capital markets: Commercial consumer risk scores and the making of subprime mortgage finance," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 34(5), pages 654-674, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:aosoci:v:34:y:2009:i:5:p:654-674
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    Cited by:

    1. Boussard, Valérie & Godechot, Olivier & Woloszko, Nicolas, 2016. "How to make a deal: The role of rankings and personal ties in creating trust in the M&A market," MaxPo Discussion Paper Series 16/3, Max Planck Sciences Po Center on Coping with Instability in Market Societies (MaxPo).
    2. Ding, Lei & Hwang, Jackelyn, 2016. "The Consequences of Gentrification: A Focus on Residents’ Financial Health in Philadelphia," Working Papers 16-22, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
    3. Cooper, Christine, 2015. "Entrepreneurs of the self: The development of management control since 1976," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 14-24.
    4. Bill Maurer, 2012. "Finance 2.0," Chapters,in: A Handbook of Economic Anthropology, Second Edition, chapter 11 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    5. Bernardo Batiz-Lazo, 2017. "Between novelty and fashion.Risk management and the adoption of computers in retail banking," Working Papers 17001, Bangor Business School, Prifysgol Bangor University (Cymru / Wales).
    6. Lipartito, Kenneth, 2011. "The narrative and the algorithm: Genres of credit reporting from the nineteenth century to today," MPRA Paper 28142, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. repec:eee:aosoci:v:60:y:2017:i:c:p:79-95 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Olivier Godechot, 2015. "Financialization Is Marketization! : A Study on the Respective Impact of Various Dimensions of Financialization on the Increase in Global Inequality," Sciences Po publications 15/3, Sciences Po.
    9. Tordjman, Hélène, 2011. "La crise contemporaine, une crise de la modernité technique," Revue de la Régulation - Capitalisme, institutions, pouvoirs, Association Recherche et Régulation, vol. 10.
    10. Godechot, Olivier, 2015. "Financialization is marketization! A study on the respective impact of various dimensions of financialization on the increase in global inequality," MaxPo Discussion Paper Series 15/3, Max Planck Sciences Po Center on Coping with Instability in Market Societies (MaxPo).
    11. Marion Fourcade & Kieran Healy, 2013. "Classification situations: Life-chances in the neoliberal era," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/6cbt691h0h8, Sciences Po.

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