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Fannie, Freddie win Michigan appeal

Milwaukee County’s million-dollar lawsuit against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is based on a Michigan decision that recently was overturned on appeal.

But the attorney who led Michigan’s class-action lawsuit is recommending Michigan take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

William Horton, of Troy, Mich.-based Giarcomo, Mullins & Horton PC, filed the lawsuit on behalf of all Michigan counties to collect real estate transfer taxes he claimed Fannie Mae, formally the Federal National Mortgage Association, and Freddie Mac, formally the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., owe the state.

Horton said there is a 90-day window to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Real estate transfer taxes are levied on a property when ownership changes. In Michigan and Wisconsin, those taxes are paid by the seller.

Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s charters exempt them from taxation, but Horton argued those exemptions do not apply to transfer taxes because they are indirect taxes. In March 2012, a Michigan judge agreed.

But the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision in May, agreeing with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s argument that the exemptions from “all taxation” in their charters include the transfer taxes.

Milwaukee County filed a lawsuit in July similar to that in Michigan. The county’s register of deeds, John La Fave, has estimated Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac owe Milwaukee County at least $1 million.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac asked a federal judge to dismiss Milwaukee County’s case in October but no decision has been made.


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