Federal Reserve entangled in costly litigation over former Bear Stearns assets

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Reuters’ Matthew Goldstein argued that Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke is becoming a “landlord of struggling strip malls across America,” the result of taking on $29 billion in troubled assets from Bear Stearns last year, in a column yesterday. As the Fed struggles to recoup its losses from the foreclosed Crossroads Mall in Oklahoma City, for instance, where the operators defaulted on a $76 million commercial mortgage, it faces a mess of costly litigation in federal court in New York. Meanwhile, the mall, for which the Fed paid $11.2 million, is back on the market with an asking price of $24 million. Two additional lawsuits have emerged from the bankruptcy of Extended Stay Hotel, which had received $900 million in financing from Bear Stearns. In one, a subsidiary of the Carlton Group, a New York-based real estate firm that also lent to Extended Stay, is suing the Fed, Bank of America and Wachovia for colluding and conspiring against the group’s interest in the weeks leading up to the bankruptcy filing. To avoid getting lost in complex litigation, Goldstein argues, the Fed should strike a deal with JPMorgan and rid itself of the Bear Stearns portfolio.

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