David Stevens arrived as a commissioner at the Federal Housing Administration in 2009 vowing to restore financial discipline to a government housing body facing the stresses of a post-crash world. A former mortgage banker himself, Stevens, now 54, bolstered the agency's finances and pursued alleged wrongdoing at nonbank lenders including Berkshire Hathaway and Goldman Sachs & Co. affiliates.

One group the FHA did not feud with during Stevens' tenure: top industry players, such as Bank of America Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co. A collection of emails between Stevens and the Mortgage Bankers Association may help explain why.

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