Occupy Our Homes Atlanta protesters led to the premature end of a question-and-answer session with the new chairman of Fannie Mae’s board at a Thursday lunch at the Atlanta Press Club.
The protesters asked Egbert Perry, who is also the chairman and CEO of the Atlanta urban real estate company Integral Group, to respond to questions about specific homeowners who have had difficulty getting through to Fannie Mae about their own housing situations. Tim Franzen, an Occupy leader, held a sign that said “Shame on Fannie Mae.” When asked to sit down, Franzen told Press Club attendees that what Egbert and the government-backed mortgage giant have “done to this country is criminal.”
“Events like today are about bringing the crisis to the people who are causing it,” Franzen said afterward.
Before the program ended, Perry talked about his interest in urban redevelopment and his experience upon first joining the board, months after the start of the financial crisis. Then, he would make sure the agency’s name was not visible when he read Fannie Mae board materials on airplanes.
“Everybody was vilifying Fannie Mae,” he said. “It was the scourge of the Earth.”
Now, Perry said, Fannie Mae is serving its purpose in bringing liquidity to the housing market. Whether it and Freddie Mac will continue operating in the long term remains to be seen.
Perry also spoke about metro Atlanta, which he said “has a lot of challenges.” The decisions that metro Atlanta and Georgia are making, he said, is making the region less desirable for business.
“We have not figured out how to work together as a region,” he said. “We are horrible at that.”