MBIA: Mortgage Putback Winner

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- MBIA ( MBI) was the winner among major financial services companies on Wednesday, as the bond insurer's shares popped 18% to close at $10.41.

The broad indexes saw slight declines on a light day for economic releases. The KBW Bank Index ( I:BKX) rose slightly to close at 55.04, and the KBW Insurance index rose 0.5% to close at 138.91.

The move in MBIA's shares underlined the major stakes the company has in lawsuits similar to the one that was decided late on Tuesday in favor of rival bond insurer Assured Guaranty ( AGO).

Assured Guaranty was awarded $90.1 million plus expenses after claiming that the main subsidiary of Flagstar Bancorp ( FBC) made fraudulent representations that caused the bond insurer $116 million in damages and expenses. Flagstar said in a statement that it intended "to vigorously contest the outcome on appeal."

Such an appeal may be a tall order, and would probably center around Flagstar's contention that Assured Guaranty's sampling process for the two pools of securitized home equity loans in question was flawed. Judge Jed Rakoff of the U.S. Southern District of New York wasn't buying Flagstar's arguments, and said that the loan sampling methodology by Assured Guaranty's expert witness was "not only appropriate to the courtroom but corroborated by the Court's own review." Rakoff also said that the expert witness's testimony was "fully credible."

Assured Guaranty's shares rose over 10% to close at $19.56.

MBIA has a similar mortgage putback lawsuit pending against Flagstar, seeking $165 million in damages over two mortgage loan securitizations. Flagstar will easily absorb a "worst-case loss of $1.50 per share to $2.00 per share" to tangible book value from the MBIA and Assured Guaranty lawsuits, according to FBR analyst Paul Miller.

But MBIA has bigger fish to fry, with a mortgage putback lawsuit pending against Bank of America which several analysts believe could be settled for between $2 billion and $3 billion, although the bank appears to be delaying a settlement while negotiating other mortgage repurchase claims with private investors.

Bank of America on Jan. 7 announced a mortgage repurchase settlement with government-sponsored mortgage giant Fannie Mae ( FNMA). In its agreement to end the long-running and high profile dispute, Bank of America agreed to pay $3.6 billion in cash to Fannie and to pay roughly $6.75 billion to repurchase 30,000 mortgage loans.

Following that settlement, MKM Partners analyst Harry Fong said in a report that he no longer believed that Bank of America would settle with MBIA "any time soon." The analyst does believe that a settlement could happen later this year, after Bank of America finishes paying for a previous private label MBS settlement.

MBIA's lawsuit against Bank of America centers on loans that were originally sold by Countrywide Financial, which was acquired by Bank of America in July 2008.

"Bank of America is expected to essentially argue that parent corporations are not liable for the acts of their subsidiaries prior to an acquisition. Successor liability is a critical issue, in our view, and we remain surprised that Bank of America appears willing to risk an adverse ruling," he wrote.

Despite the possibility of a prolonged wait for a settlement with Bank of America, Fong rates MBIA a "buy," with an $18 price target. The analyst estimates that MBIA will earn 35 cents a share this year.

MBI Chart MBI data by YCharts

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-- Written by Philip van Doorn in Jupiter, Fla.

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Philip W. van Doorn is a member of TheStreet's banking and finance team, commenting on industry and regulatory trends. He previously served as the senior analyst for TheStreet.com Ratings, responsible for assigning financial strength ratings to banks and savings and loan institutions. Mr. van Doorn previously served as a loan operations officer at Riverside National Bank in Fort Pierce, Fla., and as a credit analyst at the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, where he monitored banks in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Mr. van Doorn has additional experience in the mutual fund and computer software industries. He holds a bachelor of science in business administration from Long Island University.

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