In a filing with the SEC yesterday, the government-sponsored company said it would not be able to meet a March 31 deadline to file the annual report and was unable to provide "a reasonable estimate" of its earnings for 2003 and 2004.

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WASHINGTON — Mortgage giant Fannie Mae, previously accused by regulators of manipulating earnings, disclosed yesterday that it will miss the regulatory deadline for filing its financial report for 2004 and may have to record an additional loss of some $2.4 billion. The discovery of falsified signatures raised the possibility of criminal activity by company employees.

Fannie Mae, which is the largest U.S. buyer of home mortgages, recently was ordered by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to restate its earnings back to 2001, a correction that could reach an estimated $8.4 billion. That would erase nearly one-third of the company’s reported profit since 2001. The newly disclosed potential loss would bring the restatement to nearly $11 billion.

In a filing with the SEC yesterday, the government-sponsored company said it would not be able to meet a March 31 deadline to file the annual report and was unable to provide “a reasonable estimate” of its earnings for 2003 and 2004.

Fannie Mae shares fell 4.3 percent, or $2.45, to close at $54.50 yesterday, setting a new 52-week low. They lost another 20 cents in extended trading.

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The company still hasn’t filed its third-quarter 2004 report, which was due in November. Fannie Mae missed that deadline after its independent auditor KPMG refused to sign off on the report.

The latest downturn in Fannie Mae’s fortunes since its accounting crisis came to light last September came as news emerged that federal regulators had found cases of company employees falsifying signatures in ledgers and improperly altering database records.

Investigators at the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO), who previously found serious accounting problems at Fannie Mae, are trying to determine whether the employees in question aimed to manipulate the company’s financial reports, an agency spokesperson said, declining to be identified by name and confirming a report in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. The employees at the company were not identified.

The disclosure raises the possibility of criminal activity by employees at Fannie Mae, whose accounting also is under investigation by the Justice Department and the SEC.

Asked whether there were indications of criminal activity, an OFHEO official said that was possible, The Journal reported. It did not name the official.

In an accord with OFHEO last week, the company agreed to set up new controls against faulty accounting — including policies to prevent the falsification of signatures in ledgers.