U.S. accuses Bank of America of mortgage-backed securities fraud

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK,  (Reuters) – The U.S. government yesterday filed two civil lawsuits against Bank of America that accuse the bank of investor fraud in its sale of $850 million of residential mortgage-backed securities.

The lawsuits are the latest legal headache for the second-largest U.S. bank, which has already agreed to pay in excess of $45 billion to settle disputes stemming from the 2008 financial crisis.

While most of the cases Bank of America has already confronted pertain to its acquisitions of brokerage Merrill Lynch and home lender Countrywide, the lawsuits filed on Tuesday pertain to mortgages the government said were originated, securitized and sold by Bank of America’s legacy businesses.

The residential mortgage-backed securities at issue, known as RMBS, were of a higher credit quality than subprime mortgage bonds and date to about January 2008, the government said, months after many Wall Street banks first reported billions of dollars in write-downs on their holdings of subprime mortgage securities.

The Justice Department and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed parallel lawsuits in U.S. District Court in Charlotte, North Carolina, accusing Bank of America of making misleading statements and failing to disclose important facts about the pool of mortgages underlying a sale of securities to investors in early 2008.

The investors included the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco and Wachovia Bank National Association, the Justice Department lawsuit said.

Bank of America, which is based in Charlotte, responded to the lawsuits with a statement: “These were prime mortgages sold to sophisticated investors who had ample access to the underlying data, and we will demonstrate that.

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