WASHINGTON — Efforts by investors in the government-sponsored enterprises to find a more friendly court to challenge the government's management of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac fell flat in Iowa.

The U.S. Court for the Southern District of Iowa said Monday it was dismissing a challenge by Continental Western Insurance Co. against the GSEs' conservatorship on the grounds that it was copy-cat of a case dismissed by another court in September.

Judge Robert Pratt noted that Continental Western's complaint is nearly "identical" to the claims raised by its parent Berkley Insurance Co. in a case known as Perry Capital v. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.

Berkley Insurance and other plaintiffs have appealed the Perry Capital case to the District of Columbia circuit court, but that appeal is still pending.

Continental Western did not return a call seeking comment.

The company had filed suit claiming that the Federal Housing Finance Agency and Treasury Department acted outside their authority in sweeping all GSE profits into the U.S. Treasury.

This "net worth sweep" violates the powers Congress granted FHFA and Treasury in the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, according to the Des Moines based insurance company.

Continental Western also alleged that the government violated HERA when the two GSEs were first placed into conservatorship and required to pay a 10% dividend on their quarterly draws from the Treasury.

Judge Pratt acknowledged the issue of the 10% dividend was not raised in Perry Capital, but he noted in his decision that it is merely a different base for "arguing the same claims that were already made in Perry Capital — that FHFA and Treasury exceeded their authority under HERA."

Tim Pagliara, the executive director of Investors Unite, which has made similar arguments as Continental Western, said the "ruling changes nothing." He noted the judge did not rule on any "substantive claims brought by investors." Investors Unite represents Fannie and Freddie stockholders who claim they have been harmed by the net worth sweeps, which leaves the GSEs undercapitalized.
"This was simply a procedural ruling about the standing of the plaintiffs in Iowa. There are other streams of litigation that will continue unaffected by this ruling," Pagliara said in a statement.

 

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