The special dividends [plural] were paid because the company was able to release cash reserves held in escrow to cover loan losses. The market improved. The loan losses didn't happen, and the escrow [or part of it] was released.
I've been a shareholder here for years. My average cost basis was $6.50, but between dividends and special dividends, this company has returned more than my initial investment. Why would anybody in their right mind sell a stock yielding 12% without special dividends when the company has exceptional management?
Just thought I'd say "Hi". I'm back as an owner of MFA again, I had sold my position a few years ago to pursue another "opportunity" that kept my investment hostage until it turned around recently to yield a very modest profit. I would have done better to have kept the MFA because of the dividends.