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SoCal apartments refinanced

IRVINE -- HFF (Holliday Fenoglio Fowler, L.P.) announced it has arranged refinancing totaling more than $56 million for nine multihousing properties in the Los Angeles and San Diego metropolitan areas on behalf of Universe Holdings Development Co.

HFF worked on behalf of Universe Holdings to secure the 10-year, fixed-rate loans through Freddie Mac (Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp.).

All the loans are securitized with rates from 3.74 to 4.08 percent.

The portfolio totals 536 units and has an average occupancy of 98 percent.

The San Diego County properties were in La Mesa: the 94-unit Hills at Spring Street Apartments, with a $7.336 million loan; and the 56-unit Terraces at Spring Street, with $5.428 million.

The other properties were in Los Angeles, Van Nuys, Hollywood and Long Beach.

The HFF team representing Universe Holdings was led by director Charles Halladay.

Universe Holdings is an operator of multifamily apartments, with more than 80 cumulative years of experience in Southern California. The company has acquired 4,500 units of multifamily real estate in Southern California since its inception in 1994.

Birders outraged

(AP) -- Los Angeles bird lovers are squawking after the Army Corps of Engineers razed 80 acres of a San Fernando Valley wildlife refuge.

The Daily News of Los Angeles says the San Fernando Audubon Society is outraged that the corps last week stripped shrubbery and many trees from the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve.

The corps said it took action to help police an area known for homeless camps and lewd behavior. The move was part of a multiyear restoration plan that includes removing non-native plants and trees.

However, Audubon officials say the public wasn't informed. They claim the cleanup actually took out many native plants and devastated an area that attracts many birds.

The society has complained to Rep. Brad Sherman, whose office plans to talk with both sides.

Muni settlement

(Bloomberg) -- Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp.ís Merrill Lynch are among five firms that will pay $4.48 million to settle regulatory claims they used funds from municipal and state bond deals to pay lobbyists.

Local authorities were unfairly asked to reimburse payments that the firms made over five years to the California Public Securities Association, a lobbying group, to help influence the state, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (Finra), which oversees securities firms, said Thursday.

The firms inadequately described the fees, wrapping them into bond- underwriting expenses, Finra said.

Underwriters that fund bond-authorization campaigns and then collect fees from approved debt sales are among unresolved pay-to-play issues in the $3.7 trillion municipal market. Hiring an underwriter based on whether it supports a campaign rather than its ability to market bonds can lead to mispricing, which can hurt investors, as well as higher fees and borrowing costs.

No violations

(AP) -- The House Ethics Committee says it found no violations by House members whose mortgage loans went through the VIP section of the former Countrywide Financial Corp.

The committee said nearly all the allegations involved loans that were granted so long ago that they fell outside the panel's jurisdiction. The committee added that participation in the VIP program did not necessarily mean borrowers received the best financial deal available.

The committee said it was concerned with the actions of House staff members who may have reached out to Countrywide lobbyists for assistance with their personal loans.

The report said that if these staff loans had been more recent, there may have been disciplinary action.

Countrywide was taken over by Bank of America in 2008.

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