The federal regulator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is seeking at least $6 billion from JPMorgan Chase (JPM) to settle a lawsuit over soured mortgage bonds sold to the government-sponsored enterprises, according to news reports.
If the suit is settled, JPMorgan Chase would become the fourth and largest bank to resolve allegations that it fraudulently sold poorly underwritten loans to Fannie and Freddie.
A JPMorgan Chase spokeswoman declined to comment on the amount sought by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie and Freddie. The FHFA filed a lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase and 17 other banks in July 2011 alleging that they misrepresented the quality of mortgages packaged into mortgage-backed securities at the height of the housing boom. Fannie and Freddie bought roughly $33 billion of loans from JPMorgan Chase and two companies it acquired, Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual.
The FHFA has already reached settlements Citigroup (NYSE:C), General Electric (GE) and the Swiss banking giant UBS, though only UBS has disclosed the settlement amount. It agreed in July to pay $885 million. Other large banks sued by the FHFA include Wells Fargo (WFC), Bank of America (BAC) and Goldman Sachs (GS).
In November, JPMorgan Chase lost a bid to have U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan dismiss the lawsuit. JPMorgan had argued that Fannie and Freddie were "sophisticated investors," and that the FHFA did not have enough facts to support its claims that the loans were poorly underwritten. But Cotes ruled that the securitizations' offering documents contained false statements. Some experts have said the banks' due diligence was virtually nonexistent.
The GSEs were put into conservatorship nearly five years ago, in part, due to losses on purchases of private-label mortgage-backed securities from large banks. The FHFA has alleged the purchases of mortgage-backed securities were based on false representations by the banks.
But the FHFA also is trying to recoup losses to taxpayers. Since being taken over in 2008, Fannie and Freddie have received $187.5 billion in federal aid.
A settlement with FHFA could be imminent, but it would not put JPMorgan Chase's mortgage woes to rest. Earlier this month, the Department of Justice launched a criminal investigation into the bank's practices related to the sale of mortgage-backed securities.