Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, once fierce rivals for mortgage lenders' business, have been forced into a kinship of sorts under federal conservatorship.

Eighteen months after the government seized them, the secondary-market giants no longer focus on gaining market share or cultivating partnerships with originators. Their main priorities today are preventing foreclosures and saving taxpayers money. To help do the latter, the government-sponsored enterprises have been forcing lenders to buy back greater numbers of defective loans, a trend that has ruptured relationships.

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