As the financial markets unraveled in the fall of 2008, politicians and media pundits scrambled to find someone to blame for the panic engulfing global economies, and 1986 Harvard Kennedy School graduate Daniel H. Mudd found himself among the many thrust into the spotlight.
Mudd served as the CEO of Fannie Mae—an originally government-sponsored enterprise which expanded the secondary mortgage market by creating mortgage-backed securities—from 2005 to 2008.
“I was the CEO of the company and I accept responsibility for everything that happened on my watch,” Mudd said before a congressional investigative panel in April 2010.
But Mudd’s path from Harvard’s doors to the top of the corporate ladder was in many ways an unexpected one—and he maintains that despite the calamities that marked his tenure at Fannie Mae, he always sought to be a responsible steward of the organization.
FROM SERVICE TO SCHOOL
Mudd’s life in the early years following his graduation from the University of Virginia were marked by his interest in public service.
Mudd joined the military after college, and became a decorated officer in the U.S. Marine Corps.
“He found himself leading a platoon into a bunker in Beirut, and I’m sure he would not have wanted his path to have been something other than serving his country,” says Gordon Runté, who worked with Mudd at Fannie Mae and now works at Fortress Investment Group, LLC, where Mudd is the current CEO.
After his time in the Marine Corps, Mudd decided to return to school to pursue his interest in public administration.
Mudd says he chose Harvard in part because he wanted to take advantage of the opportunities not only at the Kennedy School, but at the other Harvard graduate schools as well.
“Boston and Cambridge are terrific places to go to school. I had a number of good friends in the graduate and law schools—all those things made it the perfect time and place for me to learn and study there,” Mudd says.
Speaking of his two years at the Kennedy School, Mudd cites, among others, a leadership course taught by Marty Linsky and Ron Heifetz as one of his most memorable classes.
According to those who have worked with him, Mudd’s management style reflects the commitment to leadership he nurtured at HKS.
“When people read the myth of Dan the Marine, it’s really true—the integrity, the intellect, the toughness. He has all the basics in spades,” says Runté. “He exemplifies leadership in full—a real life composite of the types of people he probably studied at the Kennedy School, but whom you rarely encounter in real life.”
LANDING AT FANNIE MAE