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WASHINGTON - A banking trade group raised questions Monday about the propriety of a partnership, between Freddie Mac and a Microsoft-controlled company, aimed at speeding up the mortgage process through the Internet.

In a May 5 letter released Monday, Diane Casey and William Fitzgerald, the president and chairman, respectively, of America's Community Bankers, the thrift trade group, said they would ask the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight and the Department of Housing and Urban Development "to undertake a thorough and careful review of the details and policy implications of this arrangement, its propriety, and its impact on Freddie Mac's ability to meet the purposes for which it was chartered."

The letter was addressed to Leland Brendsel, chairman and CEO of Freddie Mac. In March, Freddie Mac said it had taken a financial stake in HomeAdvisor Technologies Inc. The company, which will be majority-owned by Microsoft Corp., intends to use computer software to automate many of the steps required to approve and finance a mortgage, and it was to make its debut at Microsoft's HomeAdvisor.com Web site.

Several state savings and loan groups had protested to Congress that the venture falls outside Freddie Mac's charter.

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