Bank of America to pay $8.5B in settlement

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NEW YORK (AP) — Bank of America and its Countrywide unit will pay $8.5 billion to settle claims that the lenders sold poor-quality, mortgage-backed securities that went sour when the housing market collapsed.

The deal, announced Wednesday, cames after a group of 22 investors demanded that the Charlotte, N.C., bank repurchase $47 billion in mortgages that its Countrywide unit sold to them in the form of bonds.

The group, which includes the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Pimco Investment Management and Blackrock Financial Management, argued that Countrywide enriched itself at the expense of investors by continuing to service bad loans while running up servicing fees.

Bank of America, which bought Countrywide in 2008 for $4 billion, has denied those claims.

Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan said Wednesday that the settlement would minimize “future economic uncertainty” in the banking business and “clean up the mortgage issues largely stemming from our purchase of Countrywide.”

The settlement is subject to court approval and covers 530 trusts with an original principal balance of $424 billion.

Citi analyst Keith Horowitz said the settlement, which amounts to only 2 percent of the original principal balance, removes one of the largest investor risks for Bank of America.

“We think this could prove to be a step forward” for Bank of America, Mr. Horowitz said. It would show investors that the bank can manage through crisis without raising additional capital.

As a result of the settlement, Bank of America put its second-quarter loss at $8.6 billion to $9.1 billion. Excluding the settlement and other charges, the bank expects to post a quarterly loss of $3.2 billion to $3.7 billion.

Shares of Bank of America Corp. jumped more than 4 percent, or 48 cents, to $11.30 before the market opened, with investors happy that the bank can put a very big uncertainty behind it.

Investors now may be more confident that they can get similar concessions from other major U.S. banks that created markets for mortgage-backed securities with questionable pedigrees.

Yet stocks in the financial sector were rising in electronic trading Wednesday, likely because the Bank of America deal presents a framework for others to follow.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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