Retired Fannie Mae Chairman David O. Maxwell became a $27 million man last year.

The company, which paid him that much in annual compensation and retirement benefits, said he was worth every penny. A consumer advocate, however, called the payment outrageous.Maxwell, 60, retired Jan. 31 after a decade with the Federal National Mortgage Association, a government-sponsored enterprise known informally as Fannie Mae. He received $7.6 million in salary, stock options and other bonuses in 1990. He also received a $20 million retirement payment.

"He earned it. He deserved every penny," said David R. Jeffers, Fannie Mae vice president for corporate relations.

Fannie Mae is owned by stockholders, who trade their shares on the New York Stock Exchange. Originally, it was chartered by Congress to promote housing.

Together with its sibling organization, Freddie Mac (the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp.), Fannie Mae finances roughly one in every four home sales in the nation.

Jeffers said Maxwell's compensation was tied to the company's performance. When Maxwell took over in 1981, the company was "teetering on the brink of insolvency," losing $1 million a day, Jeffers said. Its stock was trading at $3 a share.

Last year, it earned $1.17 billion and its stock recently traded at $47 a share. The market value of the company has mushroomed 1,900 percent over the decade from $525 million to $10.5 billion, Jeffers said.

A consumer advocate, however, complained that Maxwell's incentive package encouraged him to focus on the company's bottom line to the exclusion of its public purpose of fostering affordable housing.

"I think this kind of pay for anyone is outrageous," said Peggy Miller of the Consumer Federation of America. "What it does is pay him to achieve one goal - and that's the goal of increasing the profit. . . . That, as the only goal, can have severe repercussions on the whole (housing) system."

Maxwell's 1990 compensation and pension payment were disclosed Friday in proxy statements distributed to shareholders in preparation for their May 16 meeting in Washington. It was first reported in Wednesday editions of The Washington Post.

The $27 million payment amounts to roughly 10 cents a share, according to Elliot Schneider, an analyst with Gruntal & Co. in New York.

"If you were an owner of the stock would you be happy that it went from $3 to $47? . . . Would you be willing to give him 10 cents for the job he did? How can anyone object to it?" Schneider said.

Maxwell did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday, but he told the Post, "I am the first to say it's a very large amount of money. . . . I feel comfortable with it. It's been earned."

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac purchase mortgages from lenders. Some are packaged into securities for resale to investors, others are held in the companies' portfolios. The effect is to funnel billions of dollars every year from private investors into housing.