We are an established and growing private mortgage insurance company. Private mortgage insurance plays a critical role in the U.S. housing finance system. Essent and other private mortgage insurers provide credit protection to lenders and mortgage investors by covering a portion of the unpaid principal balance of a mortgage and certain related expenses in the event of a default. In doing so, we provide private capital to mitigate mortgage credit risk, allowing lenders to make additional mortgage financing available to prospective homeowners.
Private mortgage insurance helps extend affordable home ownership by facilitating the sale of low down payment loans into the secondary market. The GSEs purchase residential mortgages from banks and other lenders and guaranty mortgage-backed securities that are offered to investors in the secondary mortgage market. The GSEs, which are U.S. Federal government-sponsored enterprises, are restricted by their charters from purchasing or guaranteeing low down payment loans, defined as loans with less than a 20% down payment, that are not covered by certain credit protections. Private mortgage insurance satisfies the GSEs' credit protection requirements for low down payment loans, supporting a robust secondary mortgage market in the United States.
Our primary U.S. mortgage insurance subsidiary, Essent Guaranty, Inc., received its certificate of authority from the Pennsylvania Insurance Department in July 2009. We subsequently acquired our mortgage insurance platform from a former private mortgage insurance industry participant and, in 2010, became the first private mortgage insurer to be approved since 1995 by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which we refer to collectively as the GSEs. We are licensed to write coverage in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.