Bank of America had a difficult 2010, as Brian Moynihan took over for embattled former CEO Ken Lewis, and the bank faced tough questions and the threat of fines and other penalties from Congress, the courts and then--New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, now the governor of New York, over its merger with Merrill Lynch.
Speculation is increasing on what the bank will focus on during the discussion. Chief executive Moynihan and other top bank executives will tell investors what to expect going forward in terms of credit losses and returns on tangible equity, according to a report by Bloomberg News Monday.
A bank spokesman declined to comment on the report.Just as that furor appeared to be subsiding, Bank of America got in trouble over sloppy paperwork and poor mortgage underwriting related to loans made by Countrywide Financial, which the bank acquired in 2008. The bank also appeared to face risks of a big disclosure from WikiLeaks, though that may have proven to be a false alarm. Mortgage-related liabilities remain the biggest issue for Bank of America. The bank settled disputes over mortgage-backed securities with Fannie Mae (FNMA.OB)and Freddie Mac (FMCC.OB) for some $3 billion, and has said exposure to private investors in MBS could reach $7 billion to $10 billion. Meanwhile, legal bills, most of which stem from the mortgage issues, keep growing. These problems explain why Bank of America was the cheapest large bank stock in the U.S. as recently as a month ago, and why many sell-side analysts recommend it. Bank of America shares underperformed rivals like Citigroup (C), Wells Fargo (WFC) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM) by a wide margin in 2010, but have performed more respectably so far in 2011. Still, there are plenty of unresolved issues, particularly on the mortgage front. That bank's struggles in that arena offer a window onto many other U.S. companies whose fortunes depend on a U.S. housing rebound. Those issues--plus the potential big gains for investors if the bank can put them in the rearview mirror--will make Bank of America's meeting Tuesday a big focus for financial sector investors and analysts. -- Written by Dan Freed in New York.
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