Mudd didn't really leave Fannie Mae behind. U.S. regulators sued him in December for allegedly misleading the mortgage company's investors about its stake in subprime loans. Now Mudd has lost another CEO post and again he's preparing for battle.

Fortress directors offered to let Mudd stay on if he settled the matter quickly with the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to two people with direct knowledge of the board's thinking. Instead, he left to work full-time on a case that legal analysts say is far from a slam-dunk for the SEC.

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