Business
2:29 pm
Mon January 7, 2013

Latest Settlement Shows 'Light At The End Of The Tunnel' For BofA

Credit Jennifer Lang

We've already established that Bank of America's 2008 acquisition of Countrywide was a costly move – and a mistake in the view of many. The Charlotte bank has spent tens of billions of dollars on settlements and losses tied to that mountain of messed-up mortgages. On Monday, Bank of America made some important progress.

Another day, another settlement - or really two,  in the case of Bank of America. And these are far from the last we'll expect to see. 

But they do matter, says SNL Financial Contributing Editor Nancy Bush: "This was probably the biggest obstacle to making that statement that you know, 'There is a light at the end of the tunnel and it's not an incoming train.'" 

She's referring mainly to a $10 billion deal BofA worked with Fannie Mae. That's the government-backed mortgage giant that buys loans from banks so they can turn around and make more. Between 2000 and 2008, Fannie Mae alleges Countrywide sold it millions of toxic mortgages that were supposedly healthy.

To settle the dispute, Bank of America will buy back nearly 7 billion dollars worth of those loans and pay Fannie Mae an additional three and a half billion dollars.

Analyst Christopher Whalen of Carrington Investment Services says, more than anything, the settlement gives investors a better idea what other outstanding lawsuits might cost Bank of America to settle.

"It's giving investors a little more certainty to what the expenses are gonna be for legacy mortgage issues, because that's part of the problem with Bank of America – people still don't know," says Whalen.

Let's not forget the fraud lawsuit filed by the Justice Department last October alleging Bank of America churned through mortgages without any thought to quality control.  

And then there's the "robo-signing" mess. Almost two years ago, banks agreed to review foreclosures and compensate homeowners who were wronged by mass approvals called "robo-signing."

But the review process is taking so long that Bank of America and nine others have now agreed to spend a total of $3.3 billion compensating borrowers who lost their homes in 2009 and 2010.  Compensation will range from a few hundred dollars to $125,000 for some 3.8 million borrowers.

Read Bank of America press release on Fannie Mae settlement here.

Read OCC press release on foreclosure compensation agreement here.