Tag Archive: Bank of America

Feb 21 2013

Five biggest TBTF banks are among least reputable companies in America

Harris Interactive’s annual “Reputation Quotient” survey for 2013 finds that the five biggest “too big to fail” (TBTF) U.S. banks have some of the lowest reputations in the country according to their survey of the general public.  All five of them are ranked in the lowest eight slots among the sixty most visible companies measured.

The maximum “reputation quotient” is 100.  Any quotient lower than 64 is considered to be “poor” and anything below 50 is considered “critical”.  All of the big five TBTF banks scored lower than 64 and Goldman Sachs is below 50, so its reputation is in “critical” condition.

Bank of America and JP Morgan have seen some improvement in their score this year, but their reputation still falls into the “poor” range.  

Harris Interactive also ranks industry reputations.  The banking and financial services industries rank above only two other industries:  government and tobacco.  Banking and financial services have improved over last year, however, by seven and eight percentage points, respectively.  Technology, travel and retail are the top three.

This poll has been published for fourteen consecutive years.  This year, more than fourteen thousand interviews were conducted for data collection.

Bank Size (1 is the largest)

bank_size_2013_table

Harris Reputation Index

bank_reputation_harris_table_2013

Sources:

FFIEC – Top 50 holding companies (HCs) as of 12/31/201

relbanks.com – The Largest US Banks

The Harris Poll 2013 RQ® Summary Report – A Survey of the U.S. General Public Using the Reputation Quotient® (This file is a PDF)

Feb 20 2013

Another Bailout Since Dodd Frank Debunks the Lies

Yes, unlike what was sold to us about Dodd Frank, there are in effect already backdoor bailouts before our very eyes if we care to look. This one involves the most important regulator of our entire financial system, the New York Fed, intervening to let Bank of America off the hook for its residential mortgage backed securities fraud.  

Feb 19 2013

Still Bailing Out the Banks

Nearly a year ago Rolling Stone contributing editor, Matt Taibbi wrote about how the Bank of America had defrauded everyone yet the US government kept bailing it out. They got a slap on the wrist and a paltry $$137 million fine for bilking needy schools and cities all the while plotting to rig global interest rates. In that same article from March 29th, 2012, Matt noted that BoA was still failing, yet they were still being bailed out. Why? The government’s excuse then and still is that they are too big to fail and too big too jail.

This was not fixed by Dodd-Frank and the promise to investigate the mortgage fraud and hold the banks accountable for bringing down the housing market and the economy along with it never materialize.

On Saturday in her New York Times article Gretchen Morgenson revealed that, we, the American taxpayer, are still bailing out Bank of America in secret deals :

That the New York Fed would shower favors on a big financial institution may not surprise. It has long shielded large banks from assertive regulation and increased capital requirements.

Still, last week’s details of the undisclosed settlement between the New York Fed and Bank of America are remarkable. Not only do the filings show the New York Fed helping to thwart another institution’s fraud case against the bank, they also reveal that the New York Fed agreed to give away what may be billions of dollars in potential legal claims.

Here’s the skinny: Late last Wednesday, the New York Fed said in a court filing that in July it had released Bank of America from all legal claims arising from losses in some mortgage-backed securities the Fed received when the government bailed out the American International Group in 2008. One surprise in the filing, which was part of a case brought by A.I.G., was that the New York Fed let Bank of America off the hook even as A.I.G. was seeking to recover $7 billion in losses on those very mortgage securities.

It gets better.

What did the New York Fed get from Bank of America in this settlement? Some $43 million, it seems, from a small dispute the New York Fed had with the bank on two of the mortgage securities. At the same time, and for no compensation, it released Bank of America from all other legal claims.

[…] To anyone interested in holding banks accountable for mortgage improprieties, the Fed’s actions are bewildering. If the Fed intended that Maiden Lane II own the right to sue Bank of America for fraud, why didn’t it pursue such a potentially rich claim on behalf of taxpayers? The Fed made $2.8 billion on the Maiden Lane II deal, but the recovery from Bank of America could have been much greater. Why did it instead release Bank of America from these liabilities and supply declarations that seem to support the bank in its case against A.I.G.?

The New York Fed would not discuss this matter, citing the litigation. But taxpayers, who might have benefited had the New York Fed brought fraud claims, deserve answers to these questions.

[…] A New York Fed spokesman said it supported the settlement because it would generate significant value without potentially high litigation costs.

Let’s recap: For zero compensation, the New York Fed released Bank of America from what may be sizable legal claims, knowing that A.I.G. was trying to recover on those claims.

If they’re too big to fail, to big to jail then these banks should be too big to exist.

Jul 28 2012

Our Treasury Secretary Was Chosen to Represent Bankers. Not You.

Cross posted at our new beta site Voices on the Square and in orange.

That’s right, and it was clear to everyone who opposed the pick of Tim Geithner from the start.  In his testimony yesterday on the NY Fed’s knowledge of the LIBOR scandal, Tim Geithner once again stated the falsity that the NY Fed was not a regulator (like he has before showing he’s either a liar or completely incompetent), when in fact he was one of the most important regulators, unknown to him, supposedly.

This was during the proceedings looking into the 100 cents on the dollar backdoor bailout of Goldman Sachs through AIG facilitated while he was President of the NY Fed.

COUNT 2: He wasn’t even a regulator! In Geithner’s own words during confirmation hearings in March: “First of all, I’ve never been a regulator…I’m not a regulator.” According to the New York fed bank’s Web site, that was your job!!

Quoting from the Fed’s website: “As part of our core mission, we supervise and regulate financial institutions in the Second District.” That district of course is the epicenter for bailed out banks and billion dollar bonuses.

It is not just the responsibility of Fed Board governors like Tim Geithner said in his testimony yesterday while trying to inflate the case for his so called “intervention” that wasn’t on LIBOR. This lack of knowledge and corruption bothers me and it also bothers me that so many don’t care, because there is an election. I feel like we are all being lulled to sleep every night by MSNBC and the partisan cable news 2012 election war syndrome.

Shortly after the President was elected, there were many naive Democrats who claimed Giethner was “a brilliant pick” merely because the President picked him which is always the criterion, sadly. I saw it as the beginning of the end of any chance of a functioning financial system that we were promised during the 2008 election by this President.  That’s why I got involved in 2008, and that’s why a lot of us are unmotivated to say the least.

You see, to be making excuses for Tim Geithner even now while not even understanding the responsibilities of the NY Fed is outright embarrassing and immoral for all the damage it causes.  

May 09 2012

Huge Protests at BofA Shareholder Meeting Today. Pay Packages Approved, Proposals Defeated.

Bank Of America Protests Begin At Shareholder Meeting

Activists from Occupy Wall Street, the environmental movement and labor unions, along with victims of home foreclosures, have begun massive demonstrations at Bank of America’s shareholder meeting in Charlotte, N.C., on Wednesday morning.

[ … ]

Inside the Bank of America meeting, disgruntled shareholders [ … ] will force votes on proposals [ … ]

Outside the meeting, protesters promise a boisterous slate of events to draw attention to Bank of America’s relationship with the federal government, the coal industry and its long record of foreclosure abuse. Occupy Atlanta’s Tim Franzen said there are three marches planned, each with its own theme: the bank’s environmental record, the housing crisis and corporate accountability issues. The marches will converge into one big protest.

Feb 03 2012

New York’s Attorney General Sues Mers & 3 Banks

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed suit today in New York State Supreme Court in Brooklyn charging them with deceptive and fraudulent practices that harmed homeowners and undermined the judicial foreclosure process. From Mr. Schneiderman’s office:

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today filed a lawsuit against several of the nation’s largest banks charging that the creation and use of a private national mortgage electronic registry system known as MERS has resulted in a wide range of deceptive and fraudulent foreclosure filings in New York state and federal courts, harming homeowners and undermining the integrity of the judicial foreclosure process. The lawsuit asserts that employees and agents of Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo, acting as “MERS certifying officers,” have repeatedly submitted court documents containing false and misleading information that made it appear that the foreclosing party had the authority to bring a case when in fact it may not have. The lawsuit names JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., Bank of America, N.A., Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., as well as Virginia-based MERSCORP, Inc. and its subsidiary, Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc.

The lawsuit further asserts that the MERS System has effectively eliminated homeowners’ and the public’s ability to track property transfers through the traditional public records system. Instead, this information is now stored only in a private database – which is plagued with inaccuracies and errors – over which MERS and its financial institution members exercise sole control. Additional defendants include BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP, Chase Home Finance LLC, EMC Mortgage Corporation, and Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Inc.

“The banks created the MERS system as an end-run around the property recording system, to facilitate the rapid securitization and sale of mortgages. Once the mortgages went sour, these same banks brought foreclosure proceedings en masse based on deceptive and fraudulent court submissions, seeking to take homes away from people with little regard for basic legal requirements or the rule of law,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Our action demonstrates that there is one set of rules for all – no matter how big or powerful the institution may be – and that those rules will be enforced vigorously. Only through real accountability for the illegal and deceptive conduct in the foreclosure crisis will there be justice for New York’s homeowners.” [..]

The lawsuit specifically charges that the defendants have engaged in the following fraudulent and deceptive practices:

   

  • MERS has filed over 13,000 foreclosure actions against New York homeowners listing itself as the plaintiff, but in many instances, MERS lacked the legal authority to foreclose and did not own or hold the promissory note, despite saying otherwise in court submissions.
  •    

  • MERS certifying officers, including employees and agents of JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo, have repeatedly executed and submitted in court legal documents purporting to assign the mortgage and/or note to the foreclosing party. These documents contain numerous defects, including affirmative misrepresentations of fact, which render them false, deceptive, and/or invalid. These assignments were often automatically generated and “robosigned” by individuals who did not review the underlying property ownership records, confirm the documents’ accuracy, or even read the documents. These false and defective assignments often masked gaps in the chain of title and the foreclosing party’s inability to establish its authority to foreclose, and as a result have misled homeowners and the courts.
  •    

  • MERS’ indiscriminate use of non-employee “certifying officers” to execute vital legal documents has confused, misled, and deceived homeowners and the courts and made it difficult to ascertain whether a party actually has the right to foreclose. MERS certifying officers have regularly executed and submitted in court mortgage assignments and other legal documents on behalf of MERS without disclosing that they are not MERS employees, but instead are employed by other entities, such as the mortgage servicer filing the case or its counsel. The signature line just indicates that the individual is an “Assistant Secretary,” “Vice President,” or other officer of MERS. Indeed, these documents often purport to assign the mortgage to the certifying officer’s own employer. Moreover, as a result of the defendants’ failure to track the designation of certifying officers and the scope of their authority to act, individuals have executed legal documents on behalf of MERS, such as mortgage assignments and loan modifications, when they were either not designated as a MERS certifying officer at the time or were not authorized to execute documents on behalf of MERS with respect to the subject loan.
  •    

  • MERS and its members have deceived and misled borrowers about the importance and ramifications of MERS’ role with respect to their loan by providing inadequate disclosures.
  •    

  • The MERS System is riddled with inaccuracies which make it difficult to verify the chain of title for a loan or the current note-holder, and creates confusion among stakeholders who rely on the information. In addition, as a result of these inaccuracies, MERS has filed mortgage satisfactions against the wrong property.
  • The lawsuit seeks a declaration that the alleged practices violate the law, as well as injunctive relief, damages for harmed homeowners, and civil penalties. The lawsuit also seeks a court order requiring defendants to take all actions necessary to cure any title defects and clear any improper liens resulting from their fraudulent and deceptive acts and practices.

    Schneiderman has still not signed onto the Federal agreement and the final terms of that agreement are still pretty vague as no one has actually seen the final document but they have been given until February 6 to sign on to it.  Precisely how this suit, or the one file this week by Illinois AG against Nationwide, will effect or be effected by that agreement is anyone’s guess. But there is a lot of speculation. Happy Friday news dump  

    Feb 03 2012

    The Failures of the SEC & Continued Protection of the Big Banks

    Nothing surprising about the revelation in today’s New York Times that the SEC has failed to get tough with the big banks but it does highlight how Occupy Wall St. has change this conversation in the traditional media that is now taking a more critical look at what is wrong with the economy and why. Despite all the whining from the agency that it doesn’t have the resources or the tools, when in fact it does but has refused to use them against the biggest and repeat offenders. The SEC has repeatedly granted waivers to the laws and regulations that stop fraud:

    JPMorganChase, for example, has settled six fraud cases in the last 13 years, including one with a $228 million settlement last summer, but it has obtained at least 22 waivers, in part by arguing that it has “a strong record of compliance with securities laws.” Bank of America and Merrill Lynch, which merged in 2009, have settled 15 fraud cases and received at least 39 waivers.

    Only about a dozen companies – Dell, General Electric and United Rentals among them – have felt the full force of the law after issuing misleading information about their businesses. Citigroup was the only major Wall Street bank among them. In 11 years, it settled six fraud cases and received 25 waivers before it lost most of its privileges in 2010.

    The SEC also does keep an organized data base of the waivers it granted, so in its investigation the NYT’s had do some digging but found some very telling facts about the SEC’s failures to protect investors while protecting the big banks from lawsuits and prosecution:

    JPMorganChase is among the big Wall Street firms that have been granted multiple waivers with nearly every settlement of S.E.C. fraud charges. Last July, it agreed to pay $228 million to settle civil and criminal charges that it cheated cities and towns by rigging bids with other Wall Street firms to invest the money raised by several municipalities for capital projects.

    JPMorgan received three waivers related to that case for privileges that it otherwise would have lost. But the S.E.C. said the company’s fraudulent actions didn’t involve misleading investors about JPMorgan’s business. [..]

    Despite six securities fraud settlements in 13 years, JPMorgan rarely if ever lost any special privileges. It has been awarded at least 22 waivers since 2003, with most of its S.E.C. settlements generating two or more. In seeking the reprieves, lawyers for JPMorgan stated in letters to the S.E.C. that it should grant a waiver because the company has “a strong record of compliance with the securities laws.”

    JPMorgan isn’t the only big bank that has received a pass on fraud from the SEC, Bank of America has been a recipient of favored status:

    In 2009, the S.E.C. was negotiating with Bank of America over charges that it had failed to disclose to shareholders that billions of dollars in bonuses were being paid to Merrill Lynch executives just as Bank of America was bailing out the firm.

    Because the S.E.C. charges involved fraudulent statements by both Bank of America and Merrill Lynch about their financial status, the merged company was in danger of losing its special privileges for both offerings and forecasts. [..]

    It settled the case by agreeing to a $150 million payment. The S.E.C., however, decided not to charge the bank with fraud, which could have endangered the bank’s special status. Instead, the S.E.C. charged Bank of America with violating disclosure rules for shareholder materials and proxies, and Bank of America kept its privileges.

    It took years before the SEC finally took action against Citigroup for its violations of rules and regulations but in 2010. That only happened because Citibank blatantly lied to its investors about the amount of risk it was carrying on its balance sheets. In its disclosure the bank stated that it was only holding $13 billion in risks when in reality it was $50 billion. It settled the case for $75 million but because of the falsification of its financial statement it lost the ability to insulate itself from lawsuits over mistaken predictions about its business and had to wait weeks for the SEC’s approvals to make itself eligible to sell stocks, bonds and other securities to the public. Prior to those sanctions Citibank had settled six fraud cases and received 25 waivers. Meanwhile JPMorgan, Gold Sachs and others have avoided sanctions and continue their fraudulent practices.

    Yves Smith at naked capitalism in pointing out the significance of this article makes this observation:

    What the article does not make quite clear is the SEC rationale for this double standard. I’d hazard that it’s that big financial players are often in the market raising funds, and restricting their access is, well, just a bit too mean since they are money junkies. Just look how hard it was for Citi when it fell out of the SEC’s most favored nations status and lost its ability to use so-called “shelf registrations” to sell stock and bonds:

       And the companies continue to use rules that let them instantly raise money publicly, without waiting weeks for government approvals. Without the waivers, the companies could not move as quickly as rivals that had not settled fraud charges to sell stocks or bonds when market conditions were most favorable.

    OMG, if you break the law, you might be put at a competitive disadvantage! Can’t have that, now can we?

    She concludes:

    [..] As we have said, one of basic rules of regulating is to make sure the regulated know you are not cowed by them. When I was a young person working on Wall Street, investment banks were afraid of the SEC. By contrast, this article reveals, as many have suspected, that regulators have plenty of tools to bring banks to heel. They choose not to use them.

    The SEC does have a defense of sorts, which is (as we have recounted) that Congress has cut off funding when it merely tried to be tough in defending retail investors from abuses under Arthur Levitt in the 1990s. The passivity of the SEC is a symptom of elite corruption. A reform-minded President could choose to cross swords with Congress and defend the agency against harassment for tough minded enforcement. But that would be in a parallel universe where the banks were not in charge.

    It was the Occupy Wall St. movement and a handful of state attorneys general who have changed the conversation from protecting the 1% to investigating them and looking at their practices and the agencies that regulate them with a more critical eye.

     

    Oct 21 2011

    Playing for Profits

    After Bank of America was downgraded by the ratings agencies and over the objections of the FDIC but with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s blessing, the Bank of America transferred millions of dollars of its worst derivatives to its Merill Lynch unit where they would be insured:

    The Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. disagree over the transfers, which are being requested by counterparties, said the people, who asked to remain anonymous because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. The Fed has signaled that it favors moving the derivatives to give relief to the bank holding company, while the FDIC, which would have to pay off depositors in the event of a bank failure, is objecting, said the people. The bank doesn’t believe regulatory approval is needed, said people with knowledge of its position.

    Three years after taxpayers rescued some of the biggest U.S. lenders, regulators are grappling with how to protect FDIC- insured bank accounts from risks generated by investment-banking operations. Bank of America, which got a $45 billion bailout during the financial crisis, had $1.04 trillion in deposits as of midyear, ranking it second among U.S. firms.

    “The concern is that there is always an enormous temptation to dump the losers on the insured institution,” said William Black, professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and a former bank regulator. “We should have fairly tight restrictions on that.”

    So why is the FDIC concerned and the Federal Reserve giving its blessing? masaccio at FDL explains:

    Of course, the Fed loves it. Bank holding companies can do no wrong as far as the Fed is concerned. The risk to taxpayers, and the moral hazard issues are utterly irrelevant to Ben Bernanke and his buddies. Of course, given the vast conflicts of interest at the Fed, this isn’t a surprise.

    There are reasons to be worried about this. First, BAC moved the derivatives at the request of counterparties. The counterparties have a right under their derivative contracts to demand collateral from BAC, as they did after the company’s rating was reduced earlier this year. BAC estimates that would require an additional $3.3 billion in collateral. The downgrade was due to judgment by the ratings agencies that the government was less likely to bail out BAC if it got into trouble. Thus, the effect of the downgrade was to increase the direct risk to the FDIC, by forcing it in effect to guarantee the derivatives of Merrill Lynch. Nice opinion, ratings agencies. I wonder who paid them for it?

    Second, if the FDIC has to liquidate BAC, it will have to borrow from the Treasury to pay depositors, and it will have to bill the largest banks for additional fees to pay off the Treasury loans to the extent of actual losses. We have no idea of the interlocking relations of these giants, so we have no idea whether the collapse of one would wreck others. Media reports say there are concerns about the relationships between European banks and US banks, so there is reason for concern about the relations among US giants. If one collapse could lead to others, where is the money coming from to repay the Treasury? []

    Third, 82% of derivatives in notional amount are interest rate swaps. Interest rates are at historic lows. What happens when they go back up to normal levels? []

    Fourth, BAC has a huge position in credit default swaps, with a notional value of $4.1 trillion. . . . . as we saw with AIG, when CDSs go sour, the counterparty has the right to demand collateral right up to the moment the entity fails. In this case, that collateral would be cash, and it would directly reduce the amount of cash in the Bank. That would be a disaster for the FDIC, which would have to pay off the depositor losses up to the insured limit.

    As Yves Smith explains this has an air of criminal incompetence with the tax payers having to foot the bill in the end:

    This move reflects either criminal incompetence or abject corruption by the Fed. Even though I’ve expressed my doubts as to whether Dodd Frank resolutions will work, dumping derivatives into depositaries pretty much guarantees a Dodd Frank resolution will fail. Remember the effect of the 2005 bankruptcy law revisions: derivatives counterparties are first in line, they get to grab assets first and leave everyone else to scramble for crumbs. So this move amounts to a direct transfer from derivatives counterparties of Merrill to the taxpayer, via the FDIC, which would have to make depositors whole after derivatives counterparties grabbed collateral. It’s well nigh impossible to have an orderly wind down in this scenario. You have a derivatives counterparty land grab and an abrupt insolvency. Lehman failed over a weekend after JP Morgan grabbed collateral.

    But it’s even worse than that. During the savings & loan crisis, the FDIC did not have enough in deposit insurance receipts to pay for the Resolution Trust Corporation wind-down vehicle. It had to get more funding from Congress. This move paves the way for another TARP-style shakedown of taxpayers, this time to save depositors. No Congressman would dare vote against that. This move is Machiavellian, and just plain evil.

    It is well past time to do something about regulation and oversight of the Federal Reserve.

    Aug 31 2011

    FDIC Objects to BoA Bailout & Files Suit

    Well, well, this is getting juicy. The FDIC has filed a lawsuit objecting to the $8.5 billion bail out of the Bank of America:

    The FDIC, the receiver for failed banks, owns securities covered by the settlement and said it doesn’t have enough information to evaluate the accord, according to a filing yesterday in federal court in Manhattan.

    Under the agreement, Bank of America would pay $8.5 billion to resolve claims from investors in Countrywide Financial Corp. mortgage bonds. The settlement was negotiated with a group of institutional investors, including BlackRock Inc. (BLK) and Pacific Investment Management Co. LLC, and would apply to investors outside that group.

    Bank of New York Mellon Corp. (BK), the trustee for the mortgage-securitization trusts covered by the agreement, has asked a New York state judge to approve the settlement in November. An investor group is trying to move the case to federal court, which Bank of New York opposes.

    Investors that would be bound by the settlement, including American International Group Inc., have criticized the deal and Bank of New York’s role representing investors in the mortgage bonds. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden have sought to intervene in the case and asked the court to reject it.

    The Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto has further upped the ante:

    The attorney general of Nevada is accusing Bank of America of repeatedly violating a broad loan modification agreement it struck with state officials in October 2008 and is seeking to rip up the deal so that the state can proceed with a suit against the bank over allegations of deceptive lending, marketing and loan servicing practices.

    In a complaint filed Tuesday in United States District Court in Reno, Catherine Cortez Masto, the Nevada attorney general, asked a judge for permission to end Nevada’s participation in the settlement agreement. This would allow her to sue the bank over what the complaint says were dubious practices uncovered by her office in an investigation that began in 2009.

    In her filing, Ms. Masto contends that Bank of America raised interest rates on troubled borrowers when modifying their loans even though the bank had promised in the settlement to lower them. The bank also failed to provide loan modifications to qualified homeowners as required under the deal, improperly proceeded with foreclosures even as borrowers’ modification requests were pending and failed to meet the settlement’s 60-day requirement on granting new loan terms, instead allowing months and in some cases more than a year to go by with no resolution, the filing says.

    The complaint says such practices violated an agreement Bank of America reached in the fall of 2008 with several states and later, in 2009, with Nevada, to settle lawsuits that accused its Countrywide unit of predatory lending. As the credit crisis grew, the settlement was heralded as a victory by state offices eager to help keep troubled borrowers in their homes and reduce their costs. Bank of America set aside $8.4 billion in the deal and agreed to help 400,000 troubled borrowers with loan modifications and other financial relief, such as lowering interest rates on mortgages.

    I’ll bet you this has Obama and the remaining AG’s panties in a twist, since, according to rumors they were looking to settle this by Labor Day.

    Here’s the link to the FDIC’s brief:

    FDIC Objection to Bank of America Mortgage Settlement