Bank of America Corp., the biggest U.S. lender by assets, is segregating almost half its 13.9 million mortgages into a “bad” bank comprised of its riskiest and worst-performing “legacy” loans, said Terry Laughlin, who is running the new unit.
“We are creating a classic good bank, bad bank structure,” Laughlin told investors at a meeting in New York today. He was promoted last month to manage the costs of resolving disputes stemming from the company’s 2008 purchase of Countrywide Financial Corp. “We’re going to get after this, we’re going to do it the right way and we’re going to put it to bed in the next 36 months,” he said.
The legacy portfolio will hold 6.7 million loans with outstanding principal balance of about $1 trillion, according to a presentation to investors today. The split leaves home loan President Barbara Desoer with about half her previous portfolio, as well as new lending going forward.
Laughlin’s portfolio will include loans that are currently 60 or more days delinquent as well as riskier types of loans the bank no longer originates, such as subprime, Alt-A, interest-only and option adjustable-rate mortgages, he said. He said the portfolios will be completely split by March 31 and that his will be liquidated over time. Of the 13.9 million loans Bank of America services, about 3.5 million are held by the company on its balance sheet. The rest are owned by other investors.
“It’s a way to get investors focus on the good,” said Paul Miller, a former examiner with the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and analyst at FBR Capital Markets in Arlington, Virginia. “It’s a way to talk about good things and ignore the bad.”
JPMorgan, Wells Fargo
Laughlin’s portfolio includes loans the company originated in addition to Countrywide mortgages. That differs from practices at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co., whose legacy books include only loans they acquired through their respective purchases of Washington Mutual and Wachovia.
“Many of the assets that are coming over into the legacy asset-servicing portfolio are delinquent or are expected to go delinquent over the next three years,” Laughlin said. “As borrowers default, we’ll evaluate them for a loan modification.”
Laughlin is also responsible for overseeing foreclosure processes as well as negotiations with investor groups that are demanding the bank buy back faulty loans.
State and federal law enforcement agencies are pushing lenders to cut outstanding loan balances as part of a proposed settlement they hope to reach with banks over their mortgage-servicing and foreclosure practices.
State attorneys general and federal agencies sent a 27-page settlement proposal last week to Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan, Ally Financial Inc. and Citigroup Inc., the five largest mortgage services, which process 59 percent of all U.S. home loans. Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said regulators and law enforcement agencies want an agreement that leads to more loan modifications for struggling homeowners.
Laughlin said regulators have reviewed the bank’s foreclosure processes and “no findings came out of those exams that basically said the foreclosure process was fundamentally flawed.”
He said the bank was instituting a standardized affidavit form and providing better oversight of third-party attorneys and vendors. “Certainly there’s always room for improvement in process,” he said.
Bank of America may face “material fines” from government probes into possible irregularities in foreclosure processes, it said in its annual earnings report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Feb. 25. The firm also said that a bondholder group including Pacific Investment Management Co. has almost doubled the number of mortgage deals on which it’s challenging the bank.
Bank of America set aside about $3 billion late last year to settle certain demands from U.S.-controlled mortgage buyers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The bank said other claims on so-called private label mortgages could cost an additional $7 billion to $10 billion.