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BofA Preps for Storm of Litigation

Robert Ottone
Aug 02, 2013

Charlotte, N.C.’s Bank of America (BofA) is one of six banks being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) for shady regulator activity during the financial crisis. The letters sent out by Schneiderman reportedly call for information regarding a record of banking transgressions including overdrawn accounts, bounced checks and fees in an effort to protect against future fraud and risky customers. The DOJ is currently planning on filing two civil charges against BofA regarding jumbo prime mortgage securitizations. The SEC is piggybacking on the DOJ’s charges. BofA President and CEO Brian T. Moynihan’s proposed effort to recover from the 2008 fallout and credit crisis might screech to a halt now that the DOJ and SEC are targeting the company over bad securitization. The SEC is also targeting BofA over collaterized debt obligations (CDOs) sold by Merrill Lynch, a BofA subsidiary. Spokesperson Lawrence Grayson stated that BofA has "made progress resolving many issues and will continue to work to address any outstanding matters." BofA has already set aside over $40 million in litigation expenses since 2010, but that number is expected to increase. The SEC has been investigating BofA for years, paying close attention to CDOs. The CDO in question is said to range upward of $1.5 billion, created by Merrill Lynch, and referred to as “Norma,” which was issued out of the Cayman Islands back in 2007, around the time the United States was experiencing the beginnings of the financial crisis. SEC enforcement officials have been investigating whether or not Merrill Lynch misled investors by not telling them that a hedge-fund helped hammer the deal together. Schneiderman claims that BofA and other banks are “improperly denying or otherwise restricting banking access to New York consumers.” The databases used by the six banks in question could potentially harm “African-Americans, Latinos and other minority groups,” seeking loans and credit. Schneiderman’s claim indicates that over one million lower-income Americans have been banished from the banking system and aren’t able to receive the credit they require, cash checks and pay bills. As the five year statute of limitations closes in on the cases in question, regulators and investigators at both the SEC and DOJ are pushing ahead with their litigation. With the various cases looming over BofA, Moynihan continues his cost-cutting strategy in an effort to boost profits, with company spokesman Larry DiRita releasing the following by-the-numbers statement to Bloomberg, “We’ve made progress resolving many issues and will continue to work to address any outstanding matters.” This three-fold litigation against BofA comes less than a year after cutting 16,000 jobs and outsourcing property reviews to India. Those layoffs came after a 40 percent rise in mortgage production, meaning, a more positive second quarter which was posted by the company last month at the cost of American jobs.
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