WASHINGTON - The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight said it is safe for Freddie Mac and within its charter to take part in a joint Internet venture - HomeAdvisor Technologies Inc. - with Microsoft Corp.

"Freddie Mac's involvement in HTI represents another permissible method for the Enterprise to deliver its secondary market services," Armando Falcon Jr., the oversight office's director, said in a letter to America's Community Bankers.

In a June letter the thrift trade group said that Freddie's participation in the venture, which will license Internet-based lending technology to lenders, brokers, and real estate professionals, raised safety and soundness issues and threatened to leave out smaller lenders.

David Roderer, the oversight office's deputy general counsel, said the office's response highlights a lesser-known aspect of its regulatory authority, which is to ensure Freddie's and Fannie Mae's compliance with their charters.

He said his office is known more for supervising safety and soundness.

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