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Fannie and Freddie's $37 Billion Question

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Some $37 billion worth of preferred shares of Fannie Mae (FNMA.OB) and Freddie Mac (FMCC.OB) were effectively wiped out when the U.S. Treasury Department took control in 2008, but at least three hedge fund investors believe the securities still have value.

That's if they can get anyone to agree on what will happen next.

"For a constituency that's as big as $37 billion, you would think there are people that have suffered horrendous losses and are adamant about the wrongs that have been committed here," Michael Kao of Akanthos Capital Management in Woodland Hills, Calif.

Prior to the financial crisis many U.S. regional banks held Fannie and Freddie preferred shares because their implicit government backing allowed the securities to pass muster with bank regulators. But in 2008 -- as losses on mortgages piled-up --Fannie and Freddie announced they would halt dividend payments and the value of those shares quickly dropped off a cliff.

Paul Merski, chief economist at the Independent Community Bankers of America, says the lobbying group is working on getting some recompense for its members, though one mortgage industry lobbyist says he believes the ICBA, for whatever reason, "hasn't been putting much muscle" behind its efforts.

Merski believes several investor class action cases are underway against the government over the decision to halt the dividend, but he couldn't name one and TheStreet was unable to learn of any.

One lawsuit announced Thursday came from Judical Watch, which calls itself a conservative non-partisan educational foundation. Judicial Watch announced it had filed a motion in a Washington D.C. U.S. District Court to try an get the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to release documents related to its decision to place Fannie and Freddie into conservatorship. An FHFA spokeswoman had no comment.

Judicial Watch files politically-charged lawsuits on a regular basis. It has typically gone after Democrats, though it once sued former Republican vice president Dick Cheney. The group's list of 10 Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians on its website lists eight Democrats, including President Obama, Rahm Emmanuel, Barbara Boxer and Nancy Pelosi, and two relatively minor Republicans.
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