James Lockhart, the regulator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, will soon step down after more than three years as overseer for the mortgage finance companies, an administration official said.
Lockhart will step down very soon as head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the official said, but no decision has been made about who might be a suitable long-term replacement, nor what role that person would have in shaping housing policy.
When asked by Reuters in an interview if he is leaving soon, Lockhart would not comment on any move but said he was proud of his work as a regulator and was looking forward to returning to private life.
It's just time to get back to the family, he said.
Lockhart was a prep-school classmate of former President George W. Bush and the two men developed a friendship in their youth and as peers at both Yale and Harvard Business School.
In the spring of 2006, Bush tapped Lockhart to oversee the two government-sponsored enterprises which were nationalized in September 2008 as a global financial crisis took hold.
Lockhart said that he and other officials had no choice but the seize the two companies which had issued debt that investors assumed had a government backing.
The confidence in Freddie and Fannie and the implicit guarantee was starting to erode. If that went away, this would have been three, four times the size of the Lehman problem, Lockhart said.
(Reporting by Patrick Rucker; Editing by Andrea Ricci)