The atmosphere in the legal department at Freddie Mac is as bipolar as a double-A battery. On the negative end are federal probes, allegations of fraud, revolving-door leadership, and Republicans in Congress who are threatening to kill the secondary mortgage giant. Some in-house lawyers are even afraid to tell new acquaintances where they work. Deputy general counsel Ken Peters remembers vacationing with his wife in Ireland in 2008 and meeting another couple from Virginia. When Peters mentioned his employer, the woman shot back, “Well, thank you for the recession.”

Interim general counsel John Dye concedes that the vilification hurts. “It takes a personal toll emotionally,” Dye says. “It’s hard to work at a place where you pick up a newspaper every day and bad things are written about you.”