Federal Home Loan Bank Board Chairman Edwin J. Gray, in a letter to the Justice Department, yesterday accused Michael J. Horowitz, general counsel of the Office of Management and Budget, of trying to intimidate him and others at the FHLBB by "threating criminal sanctions for OMB's political purposes."
The Gray letter to Acting Assistant Attorney General Ralph Tarr was prompted by letters to Tarr from Horowitz challenging the bank board's financial operations.
"That Mike Horwitz would threaten to take punitive action . . . is shocking," Gray said. He added: "Something better than a fit of pique is expected of a senior government official.
"This is not the only occasion when OMB has sought to use the apportionment process and threat of criminal sanctions for its political purposes when there has been a divergence of views between us, which raises in my mind perhaps an even more critical issue -- the independence of this agency," Gray wrote.
Horowitz had no comment, but OMB spokesman Edwin L. Dale declared, "We do not intend to get into a battle of vituperation with Mr. Gray."
The feud apparently was triggered by a controversy over the legality of preferred stock issued by the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., which Gray chairs. Freddie Mac decided last month to turn over the stock, which had a market value of $600 million, to the 12 Federal Home Loan Banks, which then redistributed it to 3,400 member savings institutions.
In a Jan. 2 letter to Gray, Horowitz contended the distribution was unlawful because Freddie Mac is authorized only to sell preferred stock and not to issue a preferred dividend, and asked for an opinion from the Justice Department. Some observers said OMB's objections were based on its desire to avoid decreasing the value of Freddie Mac before the government-chartered mortgage market maker could be turned over to the private sector.
The Justice Department yesterday upheld the right of Freddie Mac to issue the stock and allow the Federal Home Loan Banks to transfer it to member savings institutions as a dividend. "Indeed, OMB seems to misperceive the very nature of preferrred stock and its role in corporate finance," Tarr wrote to Horowitz and Gray yesterday.
Horowitz yesterday accepted the decision, noting that it removed any cloud on the legality of the transaction. Meanwhile, however, he had written Tarr again Jan. 14 asking a legal opinion on another matter involving Gray. Horowitz wrote that officials of the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp., which comes under Gray, were insisting that they were not subject to OMB's authority in allocating money.
Horowitz observed that if government officials do not obey the law, they can be subject to criminal felony sanctions.
Yesterday Gray sent off his letter to the Justice department.