BofA closes one mortgage lawsuit, another lingers

Maine’s state retirement system says it was misled about mortgage securities.
Eduardo Munoz/Reuters/File 2012
Maine’s state retirement system says it was misled about mortgage securities.

NEW YORK — As soon as Bank of America puts one mortgage-related lawsuit behind it, another seems to rear its head. The bank said Wednesday that it would pay $500 million to settle a class-action lawsuit led by pension funds and other investors who say they were misled about mortgage-backed investments they bought from Countrywide, a mortgage lender Bank of America bought in 2008.

The bank portrayed the settlement as good news because it resolved most of the claims related to residential mortgage-backed securities. But analysts peppered bank executives with questions about another pending settlement. Bank of America is still waiting for court approval for a settlement it made with Bank of New York Mellon almost two years ago. If it doesn’t get the go-ahead, Bank of America will almost certainly have to spend more to resolve the claims.

Bank of America’s stock slumped 4.7 percent to $11.70. While quarterly earnings, announced Wednesday, were shy of what analysts expected, it was the bank’s latest liability from mortgage lawsuits that ‘‘seems to be the big question for investors,’’ analyst Meredith Whitney said.


Chief financial officer Bruce Thompson told analysts the bank felt ‘‘very good’’ about settling the pension funds’ lawsuit. But he acknowledged the uncertainty of potential lawsuits and declined to predict how much the bank might have to spend on litigation in the future.

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The bank’s current troubles are the latest fallout from its decision to buy Countrywide, which catapulted the bank into a spot at the top of the nation’s mortgage scene. But it’s been an albatross ever since, bringing lawsuits, investigations, and quarterly losses.

In early January, the bank took a charge of $2.7 billion to settle a dispute with Fannie Mae, which forced it to buy back mortgages it had sold to the agency before the financial crisis. It also took a $1.1 billion charge to settle government accusations that it and other banks had wrongfully foreclosed on some homeowners.

More on the bank’s results:

 The new settlement: Bank of America is paying $500 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the Maine state retirement system and others who bought mortgages Countrywide had made and bundled into securities. The investors say they were misled about the quality of the loans. The settlement still needs court approval.


 The pending settlement: Bank of America agreed in 2011 to pay $8.5 billion to settle claims brought by Bank of New York Mellon. That settlement also still needs court approval; if the judge doesn’t accept it, Bank of America would be exposed to more potential claims and litigation expenses.

 The bank funded $25 billion in home loans, up 56 percent from a year before. The mortgage unit, however, continued to lose money.

 The bank reported earnings after paying preferred dividends of $2.3 billion in the first quarter, soaring from the $328 million it earned a year earlier. However, the 2012 results were obscured by an accounting rule that forced the bank to record a charge because the value of its debt had risen.

Earnings per share amounted to 20 cents. That missed expectations of analysts polled by FactSet, who had expected 22 cents. Revenue was $23.9 billion after stripping out an accounting charge. That was down 8 percent from last year, but beat expectations of $23.3 billion.