Bank of America, other banks move closer to ending mortgage mess

Mon Jan 7, 2013 6:05pm EST
 

By Rick Rothacker and Aruna Viswanatha

CHARLOTTE/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Bank of America Corp announced more than $14 billion of legal settlements over bad mortgages it sold to investors and flaws in its foreclosure process, taking the bank a step closer to ending the home loan problems that have dogged it for years.

About $3 billion of Bank of America's Monday's settlements were part of a larger $8.5 billion deal between 10 big mortgage lenders and regulators to end a loan-by-loan review of foreclosures mandated by the government.

Bank of America shares touched their highest level in nearly two years as investors called it a good step toward ending the company's multiple legal woes. The shares later retreated to close down 0.2 percent at $12.09.

Analysts have estimated that Bank of America has paid out some $40 billion for mortgage settlements since the crisis began. Most of those losses stem from its 2008 purchase of Countrywide Financial, once the largest subprime lender in the United States.

But the bank is moving closer to the day when it can stop worrying about mortgages and start focusing on growth, analysts and investors said.

"It's a step in the right direction in terms of trying to put these issues behind the company," said Jonathan Finger of Finger Interests Ltd, a Houston, Texas-based investment firm that owns 1.1 million of the bank's shares.

Besides the multibank foreclosure settlement, the second largest U.S. bank also announced about $11.6 billion of settlements with government mortgage finance company Fannie Mae to end allegations the bank improperly sold mortgages that later soured, and to resolve questions about foreclosure delays.

Bank of America had already set aside money to cover most of those settlements. The deal with Fannie wipes out 44 percent of the buy-back requests the bank faced as of the end of the third quarter. It also eliminates possible future repurchase requests on about $300 billion in loans.   Continued...

 
Tourists walk past a Bank of America banking center in Times Square in New York in this June 22, 2012 file photograph. Bank of America Corp said it will pay $3.6 billion to Fannie Mae to settle claims related to residential mortgage loans for the nine years to the end of 2008. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/Files