A Florida bankruptcy judge approved Taylor Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp.'s request to look at the books of Freddie Mac and question its officials, a decision that could affect a pair of related lawsuits involving the collapsed mortgage lender and some of Wall Street's biggest banks.

Judge Jerry Funk of U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Jacksonville, Fla., said Friday that officials at Taylor Bean, which sold and serviced many of the mortgages that Freddie Mac owns, can pore over thousands of pages of documents and depose about a dozen Freddie Mac officials.

Funk's decision clears the way for Taylor Bean to subpoena Freddie Mac officials and question them about their business dealings with the Ocala, Fla., mortgage lender.

It also opens the door for questions about Ocala Funding, a mortgage conduit created by Taylor Bean, once the nation's 12th-largest mortgage originator. Ocala borrowed money for short periods to fund Taylor Bean's home loans before they were sold to Freddie Mac.

That unit is at the center of a legal battle between Deutsche Bank AG and BNP Paribas SA on one side and Bank of America Corp. on the other. Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas have each sued Bank of America in federal court in New York for allegedly failing to protect more than $1.7 billion in cash and mortgage loans it was obliged to secure on behalf of the banks. Taylor Bean, once the nation's largest independent mortgage lender, collapsed last August.

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