The uproar over Freddie Mac's past accounting problems seemed a distant echo at the shareholders meeting Friday at the company's headquarters in McLean.
Though it was only the mortgage company's third shareholder meeting since it had to restate $5 billion in previously reported earnings, the 9 a.m. event drew little more than a dozen investors, said Michael Cosgrove, a company spokesman. It was over in an hour.
After delivering brief remarks, chief executive Richard F. Syron responded to questions from the audience. There were just three.
First up was Valerie Heinonen, a member of the Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk, and a consultant for the Mercy Investment Group and the Sisters of Mercy of Detroit. Heinonen wanted to know whether Freddie Mac supported a proposed affordable-housing fund. (Freddie Mac has "no dog" in that fight, Syron said.)
Next was David Hochstim, an analyst with Bear, Stearns & Co. who asked Syron if Freddie Mac was going to return its excess capital to shareholders. (No promises, but Syron said, "The capital belongs to you.")
Finally there was George Sauer, 71, who owns shares through an individual retirement account. "If you're going to start your meetings at rush hour, I hope you're backing the proposal to bring Metro to Tysons Corner," he said.
The other attendees chuckled, but Sauer said later he was serious.
The drive to McLean usually takes 15 to 20 minutes from his home in Rockville, but Friday morning Sauer said he was in stop-and-go traffic the entire way. (Freddie Mac hasn't made "an official pronouncement" on the Metro issue, Cosgrove said.)
Sauer, a retired systems analyst -- "I'm supposed to solve problems" -- has brought up the issue of transportation at other shareholder meetings in the Washington area. He said he once told senior managers of AES Corp., the Arlington-based power company, to include in its proxy statement a map of the route from the Metro to its headquarters. "Every year I forget the path I trod," Sauer said.
"All I was trying to do was stimulate discussion," he said. "And push them in the right direction."
-- Annys Shin