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Buybacks Mount for Big Banks as Regional Lenders Offload Nonperformers

Defaults on home loans held by ""Fannie Mae"":http://www.fanniemae.com and ""Freddie Mac"":http://www.freddiemac.com continue to climb, but the two government-backed enterprises aren't taking the losses lying down â€" at least not all of them. The GSEs' are forcing lenders who sell them mortgages to buy back billions in soured loans.


Between them the two companies have an estimated $300 billion in single-family home loans that are at least 90 days past due, the _Wall Street Journal_ reports. And their teams of auditors are working overtime to weed through the files and pinpoint underwriting missteps or income discrepancies that would warrant a buyback by the selling institution.

According to analysis by the _Journal_, Freddie Mac required lenders to buy back $2.7 billion of loans in the first nine months of 2009, a 125 percent jump from $1.2 billion a year earlier. Fannie Mae wouldn't disclose its figure, but the _Journal_ cited trade publication _Inside Mortgage Finance_, who reported Fannie made $4.3 billion in loan-repurchase requests in the first nine months of 2009.

""Because taxpayers are involved, we're being very vigilant,"" Maria Brewster, who manages Fannie Mae's repurchase team, told the _Journal_. ""No taxpayer should have to pay for a business decision that caused a bad loan to be sold to Fannie Mae.""

The financial publication says the biggest losers are likely to be ""Bank of America Corp."":http://www.bankofamerica.com, ""J.P. Morgan Chase & Co."":http://www.jpmorganchase.com and other large mortgage lenders who led the pack in originations when the housing bubble burst.

Big banks are also taking a hit from mortgage-backed securities (MBS) investors who are returning loans with underwriting flaws in bulk. A report from ""Barclays Capital"":http://www.barcap.com found that during the first nine months of 2009, lenders repurchased just over $14 billion in loans that had


been bundled into MBS packages â€" that figure is up from $3.6 billion 12 months earlier.

Barclays warned that forced loan buybacks could wipe out a significant chunk of the origination profits recorded by banks last year.

As big lenders find themselves bringing bad loans back onto their books, more and more community banks are seeing interest from discerning buyers for assets already identified as nonperforming.

A separate report from _American Banker_ says loan sales helped a growing number of community banks push some of their problems out the door in the fourth quarter, with such transactions increasing in popularity and likely to become a trend among community banks in 2010.

""You can carry nonperforming loans, but the question is: How are you going to resolve them?"" Thomas O'Brien, president and chief executive of State Bancorp Inc., explained to the trade publication. ""We elected to get out and move on with business. We didn't feel that we were, as bankers, well-suited to act as developers or property men.""

According to _American Banker_, ""State Bancorp"":http://www.statebankofli.com in New York, with $1.6 billion of assets, sold $22 million of legacy nonperforming loans in the fourth quarter of last year, reducing its nonperforming assets by 80 percent from the third quarter.

Others that struck deals cited by the banking publication included First Busey Corp. in Champaign, Illinois and United Community Banks Inc. in Blairsville, Georgia. ""First Busey"":https://www.busey.com sold $73 million of nonperformers in Q4 and cut its nonperforming asset total to $86.3 million, half what it was the previous quarter. And last week, ""United Community"":http://www.ucbi.com reported a sale for $81 million in nonperforming loans and foreclosed properties, helping to trim nonperforming assets by 8 percent from the third quarter, according to _American Banker_.

Although the loans are sold off with deep discounts, the paper says a growing number of regional community banks have had considerable success raising capital, which gives them a bigger cushion to absorb the markdowns and offer potential buyers a good deal.

Jason O'Donnell, a senior research analyst at the investment banking firm ""Boenning & Scattergood Inc."":http://www.boenningandscattergood.com, called this type of balance sheet clean-up ""the next phase."" He told _American Banker_, ""Liquidating assets in order to start moving forward is going to be a big theme in 2010.""

About Author: Carrie Bay

Carrie Bay is a freelance writer for DS News and its sister publication MReport. She served as online editor for DSNews.com from 2008 through 2011. Prior to joining DS News and the Five Star organization, she managed public relations, marketing, and media relations initiatives for several B2B companies in the financial services, technology, and telecommunications industries. She also wrote for retail and nonprofit organizations upon graduating from Texas A&M University with degrees in journalism and English.

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