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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Fannie Mae and MasterCard

Zacks Equity Research

For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL – March 4, 2013 – Zacks.com announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Bank of America Corporation (BAC), Citigroup Inc. (C), Fannie Mae (FNMA) and MasterCard Inc. (MA).

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Here are highlights from Friday’s Analyst Blog:

Lawsuit Filed Against MERS

According to Bloomberg, the two largest counties in Minnesota -- Ramsey and Hennepin -- sued Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems Inc. (:MERS) and a number of financial institutions. The lawsuit has been filed in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota on behalf of taxpayers and other counties in the state.

The case alleges MERS of failing to keep records of consequent assignments of mortgage loans and recording payment of the filing fees. Co-defendants include Wall Street giants JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Bank of America Corporation (BAC) and Citigroup Inc. (C).

Virginia-based MERS was formed by Fannie Mae (FNMA), Freddie Mac and the mortgage industry, as a commercial and easy means of trading mortgage debt. Previously, mortgages were registered at county clerks’ offices and a fee was charged against these. However, MERS replaced the system and introduced one-time online registration.

MERS used to record servicing rights and ownership interests in mortgage loans on registration, enabling banks to buy and sell loans without recording transfers with counties. Though MERS saved mortgage lenders’ money, yet it was a flaw for counties and homeowners. Counties were deprived of the revenue from transaction fees. Moreover, erroneous property records became an issue for homeowners.

The counties alleged MERS of deceiving millions of dollars in mortgage-related fees. Additionally, MERS, which provides database for mortgage servicers, has been accused of sloppy record keeping, concealing identities of the holders of mortgage debt from borrowers and evading fees.

Therefore, the counties received a court approval for suing MERS as a class. They demand recording of every mortgage and assignment in the state in the county where the core property is located along with reimbursement.

MERS defended with the argument that use of the MERS system is lawful in all 50 states and it abides by Minn. property recording state laws. However, spokesmen from various big financial institutions involved in the case refrained from any comments.

The primary motive behind the lawsuit is to get proper accountability of the mortgage-related documents in lawful and legal procedures. Additionally, the lawsuit aims to provide relief to the counties, which were deprived of their fees and homeowners, whose property had been wrongly foreclosed by the misconducts of the mortgage servicers.

MasterCard Announces Multiple Deals

Recently, MasterCard Inc. (MA) announced a number of partnerships and product launches. The transactions are aimed at expanding the operations of the company and enhance its client base.

First, MasterCard announced a strategic alliance with VimpelCom, one of the largest integrated telecommunications service providers in the world. The partnership aims at providing newer and better payment solutions to the 212 million customers of VimpelCom across 18 countries.

The first program under this liaison would be launched in 2013 by partnering with Cartal LIS Italy to provide prepaid services to the customers of Wind Italy, an Italian telecom operator.

Second, MasterCard also joined hands with Equity Bank to introduce mobile point of sale (:MPOS) technology to the Kenyan market, thereby promoting electronic mode of payment in the country. For this purpose, MasterCard and Equity Bank have collaborated with Ezetap, one of the leading providers of mobile-based Payments services.

Small merchants in Kenya are dominating the African market in terms of adopting cost-effective and flexible payment solutions technologies. But they were unable to offer cashless transactions to their consumers until now. The introduction of MPOS will enable these merchants to provide this convenient shopping experience to customers towards improvement in sales.

Third, it also announced that eServGlobal and Oltio, both renowned mobile payment technology providers, have joined the Mobile Money Partnership Program (:MMPP) of MasterCard. MMPP, launched in Feb 2012, allows consumers to access essential financial services using their mobile phones.

The partnership will help MasterCard to expand and accelerate its programs for financial inclusion in mobile phones usage.

Finally, it also announced the launch of a payment service program, Near Field Communication (:NFC) in Brazil. To launch this program, MasterCard will use its Mobile PayPass technology and partner with Itaú, a publicly quoted bank, TIM, Redecard, a payment processor and Gemalto, a digital services company.


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