If Ally Financial can make peace with Fannie Mae, maybe other lenders can too.
On Monday Ally, formerly known as GMAC, said it had agreed to pay $465.1 million in cash to Fannie.
In return, the GSE would release the auto and mortgage lender from all mortgage repurchase liabilities. That includes loans that Ally originated and services for Fannie as well as private-label MBS Ally sold to Fannie.
Also, Fannie's conservator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), agreed to withdraw subpoenas it had issued to Ally in July for information about private-label MBS the company sold to the GSE. (In July the FHFA sent such subpoenas to 64 companies.)
Jaret Seiberg, an analyst at MF Global's Washington research group, said the settlement suggests other lenders will settle disputes with Fannie and Freddie Mac in the year ahead. (Ally reached a similar settlement with Freddie in March.)
First off, he noted that Ally's cash payment is tiny compared with the loans in question — just 5% of the remaining balances and an even smaller fraction of the original $292 billion of principal.
"We believe FHFA … would like to see the cash come into the enterprises," Seiberg wrote in a note to clients Tuesday. "And the banks and the enterprises want to put this fight behind them. That is a recipe for more settlements like the Ally deal."
Ally also said the payment was "modestly in excess of reserves previously taken." To Seiberg, that suggests the settlement was strictly business, rather than a pound of flesh extracted for Ally's well-publicized role in last fall's foreclosure robo-signing scandals.
"Ally had already pegged its potential exposure. This was paying that bill to Fannie Mae," he wrote. "If this was a political deal, then we would have expected it to be significantly in excess of what the company thought it should pay" and "there would have been politically popular conduct commitments related to originations or servicing associated with the settlement. Those side deals do not appear to be present."
The implication, Seiberg wrote, is that "there is not political pressure on the big banks to write mammoth checks to make the put-back issues go away."
However, Ally also said the settlement does not absolve it for "any failure to comply with any requirements of law applicable to foreclosing on property serving as collateral for any applicable mortgage loan."
And Seiberg cautioned that the Fannie-Ally deal is not a model for resolving banks' disputes with other, nongovernment investors in private-label MBS.