BofA Settles Mortgage Claims for $3 Billion

Monday, 03 Jan 2011 07:56 AM

 

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Bank of America Corp. is settling some buyback claims on bad home loans sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as it attempts to separate itself further from one of the of the housing downturn's biggest headaches.

The nation's largest bank also said Monday that the Federal Reserve has confirmed it no longer has any obligations under the government's Troubled Asset Relief Program, as it made good on a promise to increase equity by $3 billion.

The announcements sent the company's stock up 68 cents, or 5.1 percent, to $14.02 in morning trading.

Bank of America's deal with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are linked to Countrywide Financial Corp. residential mortgage loans. The Charlotte, N.C.-based bank purchased Countrywide in July 2008. But Calabasas, Calif.-based Countrywide spiraled downward during the financial crisis when it became clear many of its borrowers wouldn't be able to repay mortgages that had required no proof of income or down payment, and contained adjustable rates that quickly made monthly payments unaffordable.

Chief Financial Officer Charles Noski said during a conference call that Bank of America had been in "vigorous" negotiations with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to resolve the matter.

As part of the settlements, Bank of America made a $1.34 billion cash payment to Fannie Mae and a $1.28 billion payment to Freddie Mac on Friday. Noski estimates that the agreements reached with the companies leaves Bank of America with approximately $2.7 billion in outstanding claims for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Bank of America said it will take a fourth-quarter impairment charge of about $2 billion.

Noski described the deal with Freddie Mac as more of a global settlement that includes future claims, while the agreement with Fannie Mae specifically relates to the existing pipeline and does not cover future claims.

The bank's anticipated fourth-quarter provision of about $3 billion relates to repurchase obligations on the home loans, but Noski said the provision should be "meaningfully reduced" in future quarters.

Buyback claims are an ongoing issue for the financial industry, with Ally Financial Inc. announcing last week that it would pay $462 million to settle buyback claims on $292 billion in home loans that it sold to Fannie Mae.

And in mid-December a group of eight investors including Freddie Mac, Pimco Investment Management, Blackrock Financial Management and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York extended talks with Bank of America over the group's demands that the bank buy back soured mortgages sold to them.

The investors argue that Countrywide's practice of modifying loans found to have faulty paperwork or those written outside of normal underwriting standards breached signed agreements with the investors. By continuing to service bad loans rather than speeding up foreclosures, the group claims, Countrywide ran up servicing fees, enriching itself at the expense of investors.

Bank of America, however, has described the loan modifications as the "proper response to an unprecedented housing crisis and in furtherance of the stated policy of the federal government."

The deals with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae don't cover loan servicing obligations, other contractual obligations or loans contained in private label securitizations. But the agreements are a sign that the bank is working quickly to deal with buyback claims.

"These actions resolve substantial legacy issues in the best interest of our shareholders," Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan said in a statement.

Fannie Mae said in a statement that the Bank of America deal was a "fair and responsible resolution" of the outstanding claims. The company said the agreement accounts for about 44 percent of the $7.7 billion in repurchase requests outstanding with all of its seller servicers as of Sept. 30, 2010.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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