Government seeks redress for Fannie, Freddie subprime losses

Analysts say claims could crimp residential lending

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In a move that some analysts fear could lead to further tightening in residential mortgage lending, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s regulator has sued 17 banks to recover billions in losses on "private label" mortgage-backed securities the mortgage giant purchased during the housing boom.

Fannie and Freddie bought the securities — pools of subprime and "alt-A" loans considered too risky or large to qualify for their own guarantee programs — as investments before the companies were placed under government conservatorship in 2008.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which as conservator of Fannie and Freddie is charged with minimizing their losses, announced Friday it was suing 17 financial institutions, claiming some of the losses the mortgage giants have racked up on private-label MBS were due to "misrepresentations and other improper actions."

FHFA alleges that some of the loans backing the securities "had different and more risky characteristics than the descriptions contained in the marketing and sales materials provided to the (Fannie and Freddie) for those securities."

Some of the biggest names in the business are named in the lawsuits, including Ally Financial, Bank of America Corp., Barclays Bank PLC, Citigroup Inc., Deutsche Bank AG, Goldman Sachs & Co., and JPMorgan Chase & Co.