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MF Global: Ally, Fannie mortgage repurchase deal could pave way for more

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More mortgage repurchase settlements with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are likely, following the deal struck with Ally Financial (GJM) on Monday, according to a Washington-based policy research firm MF Global. Ally agreed to pay Fannie Mae $462 million to resolve put back claims on mortgages and private-label mortgage-backed securities sold to the GSE. In a report released Tuesday, MF Global said the settlement was "miniscule" compared to the $292 billion in the original unpaid principal balance. "The private-label MBS fights do not involve the GSE loans, which tended to have stronger representations and warranties. That is why one should take this to mean settlements are possible," MF Group said. "But we believe one should not apply the settlement ratio to unpaid or original principal balances and assume that is the going rate." More deals are likely to come in 2011 as the banks and GSEs want to put the fight behind them. As of Sept. 30, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have made $13.3 billion in mortgage repurchase requests, and more than one-third are still outstanding. FBR Capital Markets estimates that the banks may face between $54 billion and $106 billion in costs from these repurchases. JPMorgan Chase (JPM) analysts said mortgage buybacks may cost lenders as much as $120 billion. Fitch Ratings said the number could reach as high as $180 billion for the big four banks. MF Group said the decision to settle was not a political one even though Ally was at the heart of the recent foreclosure documentation mess. If it was a political deal, the payout would have been higher than what Ally had pegged, and there would have been other popular origination and servicing commitments attached to settlement. "Those side deals do not appear to be present," MF Group said. "We view this as a positive as it confirms our view that there is not political pressure on the big banks to write mammoth checks to make the put back issues go away." Write to Jon Prior.

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