Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are reportedly nearing agreement on a deal with New York’s attorney general that would require lenders to hire independent appraisers and provide copies of appraisal documents to a clearinghouse where their conduct and activity would be monitored.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s office is investigating whether investment banks and other companies that sold securities backed by mortgage loans failed to disclose to investors and rating agencies that many loans did not meet minimum underwriting standards.

The investigation made headlines on Nov. 1, when Cuomo’s office announced a lawsuit against First American Corp. and its subsidiary eAppraiseIT, accusing the companies of providing inflated property appraisals under pressure from Washington Mutual. WaMu was not named in the suit, and all three companies have denied wrongdoing.

A week later, the attorney general subpoenaed government-chartered mortgage repurchasers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Last month, Cuomo granted Clayton Holdings Inc. — a due-diligence firm that reviews mortgage loans packaged for sale to investors — immunity from prosecution in New York (see Inman News story).

Fannie and Freddie are nearing an agreement with Cuomo that’s intended to prevent lenders from interfering with the appraisal process, Reuters reported.

Beginning as early as September, lenders doing business with the government-sponsored enterprises would be barred from using in-house appraisers, with all appraisals coming from companies that have no formal ties to a lender or mortgage broker, Reuters said, citing an outline of a draft agreement.

According to the outline, Fannie and Freddie would also create an independent clearinghouse that would collect copies of appraisal documents and operate a hotline for industry and consumer complaints, Reuters said.

Plans to finalize the deal Monday were postponed at the last minute, Reuters reported, citing unnamed sources.

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