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Ally Financial braces for punitive AG settlement

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Ally Financial (GJM) warned investors of a probable monetary fine from the 50 state attorneys general foreclosure investigation, but could not nail down when or how large the penalty would be. In October, all but one of the AGs announced an investigation with Alabama joining days later. They began looking into how wide spread the use of forged affidavits had grown in foreclosure proceedings. But the probe has now lasted nearly one year with the bulk of the time spent on a negotiated settlement. The exact figure for a collective monetary fine on the top servicers involved ranged from $20 billion to $60 billion, which the Iowa AG struck down. What has remained consistent is the fine will be structured as a pool of funds to be used for modifications and possible principal writedowns. The new servicing requirements also will be built around federal regulators' requirements as per recent consent orders. Bank of America (BAC) reportedly broke off into its own negotiations in recent weeks to provide homeowner relief in exchange for excusing liability for past infractions. Many Republican AGs continue to quarrel with the lead investigators, calling the probe a breach of jurisdiction. Even among Democrat AGs, rifts persist. Some, led by Massachusetts AG Martha Coakley, said they would not sign any settlement that excused liability for the Mortgage Electronic Registrations Systems. Ally, one of the first servicing operations found to be robo-signing documents, told investors they are still unaware of where the investigation will end up. "While the results of these investigations are uncertain, we expect that Ally or its subsidiaries will become subject to penalties, sanctions, or other adverse actions, including monetary fines, which could be substantial and have a material adverse impact on our results of operations, financial position or cash flows," Ally said. "While we believe that a monetary fine is probable, we are not able to provide an estimate based on information currently available, nor are we able to estimate a range of reasonably possible losses," the lender said. Write to Jon Prior. Follow him on Twitter @JonAPrior

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