Will the government's bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac wipe out holders of their preferred stock and subordinated debt? That's what S&P warned today with its statement that it was placing these instruments on a negative credit watch pending a review of the legislation on Capitol Hill.
"Although there is still ambiguity on the part of regulatory authority as it applies to how nonsenior creditors of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would be treated if the U.S. Treasury ever acted on its three-point liquidity plan, the language in HR 3221 increases the likelihood that subordinated debtholders and preferred stockholders would face greater subordination risk," S&P's analyst wrote.
Update: Yves over at Naked Capitalism points out the downgrade:
Validates some of the critics' worries about Fannie and Freddie but also signals the possibility that not only shareowners could be wiped out, but even preferred stockholders and sub debt owners are exposed even with the government rescue effort. Put more simply, this move the view that the firms are undercapitalized.