Posted by Larry Doyle on August 21st, 2014 8:56 AM |
The Department of Justice is soon expected to announce a $17 billion settlement with Bank of America. Is this justice?
I will defer in writing my own commentary this morning because the words and details on this topic provided by Dean Starkman qualify as a Sense on Cents Instant Classic:
There’s a much deeper problem here, however, and one that has received far less attention: Not only has the Department of Justice (DOJ) failed to build any criminal cases for financial-crisis misdeeds, but it’s also now settling with these banks without even filing civil complaints.
A complaint is the cornerstone of civil litigation, the foundation for even routine lawsuits. One of its primary benefits—and of adversarial legal proceedings generally—is that a complaint can bring huge amounts of previously undisclosed information into the public record. In these mortgage securities cases, the Justice Department had not only an obligation but an opportunity: to show the country what it found, to deter future misconduct, to complete the story of the financial crisis in humanizing, clarifying, searing detail. (more…)
Posted by Larry Doyle on November 25th, 2013 9:38 AM |
What does that figure represent? The subsidy (aka competitive advantage) that accrues to our major banking institutions from favorable borrowing rates given their status as ‘too big to fail.’
Those tens of billions of dollars truly represent a nice, big head start for a handful of banks, and a withering assault on the precepts of free market capitalism for the rest of us.
As if $82 billion were not enough of a subsidy, let’s not forget that these banks pay you, as a depositor, virtually zero interest for the ‘privilege’ of holding your money there. Well, that may be changing. How so? How would you like to actually pay interest to the banks in order to keep your money in their institutions? Really? No way?
Yes way. (more…)
Posted by Larry Doyle on June 14th, 2013 9:02 AM |
Not that we needed any further evidence of the racketeering enterprises run within the mortgage operations on Wall Street, but with the recently delivered testimony of Simone Gordon, a senior collection officer within Bank of America’s mortgage ‘racket’ . . . we got it.
I first questioned whether the activities within the mortgage servicing enterprises on Wall Street rose to the level of racketeering in early 2011 after having becoming aware of Wall Street’s practice of robo-signing mortgage documents in order to engage in the fraudulent conveyance of countless mortgages. (more…)
Posted by Larry Doyle on June 13th, 2011 9:03 AM |
What did the Lord say to Noah?
The same thing that Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan might now be saying to his shareholders. That is, ‘how long can you tread water?’
Bank of America’s stock is down approximately 25% on the year and close to 35% over the last twelve months. While it has doubled from the Armageddon lows seen in 2008, the stock has fully retraced any moves higher since early 2009. (The graph of Bank of America below is sourced from Market Watch and covers the last three years).
What gives? Will Bank of America need to raise more capital? Will it need another lifeline from Uncle Sam?
Posted by Larry Doyle on April 9th, 2010 11:16 AM |
Lessened competition in any industry will lead to wider margins and greater revenue and profit opportunities.
Wall Street circa 2010 is certainly a dramatically changed landscape with significantly lessened competition. Is Wall Street today an honest display of capitalism in which ‘to the victors go the spoils’? Or is Wall Street an oligopoly which is using its increased power and leverage to control, if not outright fix, prices for products and services?
In the midst of all the other issues Washington is facing, I think there is very little focus on this topic, but we overlook it at our peril. Why? Price fixing, or iterations thereof, is nothing more than a vehicle to transfer wealth from consumers to providers. (more…)
Posted by Larry Doyle on February 18th, 2010 8:51 AM |
SEC Chair Mary Schapiro is on the front page of almost every major financial periodical for her ongoing pursuit to fine Bank of America for impropriety in handling its merger with Merrill Lynch.
Recall that the SEC had initially fined Bank of America $33 million last fall for its improper disclosure of Merrill’s financial figures to BofA shareholders prior to the shareholder vote approving the merger of these two financial titans.
Enter Judge Jed Rakoff who threw out the $33 million fine, calling it a ‘contrivance.’
With the ball squarely back in the SEC’s court, Mary Schapiro has now fined Bank of America a tidy sum of $150 million, but still did not pinpoint any single individual at BofA as being culpable for the impropriety. (more…)
Posted by Larry Doyle on January 5th, 2010 8:40 AM |
The economic landscape of 2009 remains littered with amazing stories and tales yet to be told. Sense on Cents would hope that all these stories generate a full dose of truth, transparency, and integrity.
To eliminate the hypocrisy presented by the financial industry, America needs more arbiters like Judge Jed Rakoff. Let’s review recent developments in the merger of then failing Merrill Lynch with Bank of America.
Were the multiple billions in bonus payments accelerated to Merrill Lynch executives in late 2008 anything short of a total misappropriation of taxpayer funds at large and Bank of America shareholder funds specifically? Did BofA executives conveniently look the other way as Merrill “robbed the bank?” This point of debate is the central premise of the current court proceeding being heard by Judge Jed Rakoff.
BofA very conveniently did not include details of the Merrill bonus payments in pre-merger disclosure materials. What is BofA’s argument for that oversight? Yesterday, BofA attorneys made the case that its shareholders should have been aware of these bonus payments from media reports. Interesting. The media becomes the punching bag for not properly reporting, and now BofA attorneys use the media as a punching bag for reporting. Is this a joke or what?
How did Judge Jed Rakoff respond to such a ‘reach’ defense? (more…)
Posted by Larry Doyle on October 13th, 2009 8:19 AM |
Are the powers that be at Bank of America wilting under political pressure to release the details of its merger with Merrill Lynch? In fact they are and in the process, the executives at Bank of America are agreeing to waive attorney-client privilege. What are the critical points which New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the SEC, those in Congress, and especially Bank of America shareholders want to learn?
1. What did Bank of America know about the ongoing deteriorating financial position at Merrill Lynch?
2. What did Bank of America executives share with their board members about the billions in bonuses to be paid at Merrill?
3. Did Ken Lewis overplay his hand? Please reference my commentary from a few weeks ago, “Documents Indicate Ken Lewis Utilized the MAC To Shake Down Bernanke and Paulson.”
The Wall Street Journal summarizes these topics this morning in writing, BofA to Hand Over Documents Related To Its Merrill Deal:
Mr. Cuomo’s investigators, as well as Judge Rakoff, have said a fuller accounting of the events surrounding the deal is a prerequisite to any resolution of the probes. BofA is hoping releasing the privileged documents will satisfy those demands, according to people familiar with the matter.
BofA’s move will likely reveal exactly what advice was provided by outside firms, according to people familiar with the matter. Those firms include Wachtell, Lipton Rosen & Katz, which represented BofA during the Merrill transaction and is a long and trusted adviser to the bank, as well as Merrill’s counsel, Shearman & Sterling LLP.
It may also show conversations with ex-general counsels Timothy Mayopoulos and Brian Moynihan. Bank of America recently hired law firm Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP to join Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP in representing the bank in the various federal and state investigations surrounding the Merrill acquisition.
“This is going to get to the down-and-dirty question of what counsel did say and did not say, what counsel meant and did not mean,” said James Cox, a law professor at Duke University.
Down and dirty? I love it. Get the extra large popcorn. This should be good.
Posted by Larry Doyle on September 29th, 2009 2:33 PM |
10.01.09 UPDATE FROM LD: I wrote this commentary this past Tuesday afternoon. Mr. Lewis tendered his resignation last evening. In regard to my concluding remarks in this post, I only wish all my calls on the market were equally as prescient.
The intrigue embedded in the Bank of America takeover of Merrill Lynch is never ending. While the book and movie of this high stakes Wall Street thriller will be voluminous, the story most certainly has many chapters yet to be written. To this point, the following questions remain outstanding:
1. Why, at the time, did Bank of America pay such a premium for Merrill Lynch?
2. Did Bank of America know all the details surrounding the $3.5 billion in accelerated bonus payments made to Merrill employees in December 2008?
3. What did Merrill CEO John Thain share with Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis in regard to the growing losses at Merrill?
4. Did Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson pressure Lewis to complete the merger against his will?
5. Did Ken Lewis consider invoking the MAC (material adverse condition) clause and negate the deal? Did Lewis consider invoking the MAC to negotiate a cheaper price?
6. Did Ken Lewis use the leverage embedded in the potential implementation of the MAC clause to generate significant government support?
Recall that a recent SEC fine of $33 million imposed by the SEC on Bank of America was thrown out by Judge Jed Rakoff as nothing more than a contrivance in which taxpayer funds were used to effectively repay other taxpayers, those being Bank of America shareholders.
Judge Rakoff will hear this case between the SEC and Bank of America in early February. Perhaps at that time answers to the questions asked above will be fully uncovered and released. Perhaps stories will leak beforehand to shed light on this drama. To that end, welcome to Sense on Cents.
I read a story to which I will link, but can not promise the link will not be broken at some future point. As such, I will provide a brief synopsis which provides riveting insights into Question 6.
Law.com reports today How Bank of America Used Merrill’s Losses to Bully the Government. In this report, the reporter offers that Corporate Counsel magazine has pored over hundreds of documents, e-mails, and transcripts pertaining to the Bank of America merger with Merrill Lynch.
In regard to the use of the MAC clause or renegotiating the deal, Law.com very clearly lays out how events unfolded last December:
The record shows that Bank of America decided not to disclose to shareholders its consideration of a MAC before the Dec. 5 vote. It also apparently decided not to use the MAC as leverage against Merrill to lower its price before the vote, even though the bank had agreed to pay a premium — $29 per share for Merrill stock that was selling at $17. It might have, but didn’t, use the MAC to force Merrill to drop its multibillion-dollar bonus pool.
Instead, the bank waited until after the shareholders approved the merger — but before the deal closed on Jan. 1 — and used the MAC to muscle the federal government and U.S. taxpayers into ponying up more bailout funds. At the time, the bank did not disclose the role of federal regulators in not invoking the MAC, and in promising the bank another $20 billion of taxpayer money in 2009 to complete the deal. (The bank had already received $25 billion in bailout funds in 2008.)
Some observers and politicians have accused federal banking officials of forcing Bank of America CEO Kenneth Lewis into completing the merger. But the documents suggest it was Lewis doing the bullying, relying on a highly vulnerable marketplace to win his way.
Wow. Did Ken Lewis overplay his hand? In light of this information, is there any doubt that Lewis is a short timer?
We will learn more in the days and weeks ahead as this drama plays out. You can’t make this stuff up . . .
Thoughts, comments, questions always appreciated.
Related Sense on Cents Commentary:
Did Big Ben Bernanke and Heavy Hank Paulson Break the Law in Buying Ken Lewis’ Silence (April 28, 2009)
Rep Edolphus Towns on Bernanke’s Testimony: ‘Something Rotten in the Cotton’ (June 26, 2009)