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Bank of America's Reserves Face Fresh Skepticism

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Bank of America (BAC) is somewhere between $16 and $22 billion short on its reserves for mortgage backed securities (MBS) litigation, according to legal and accounting experts hosted on a recent conference call by CLSA analyst Mike Mayo.

At issue is a proposed $8.5 billion settlement between the bank and 22 institutions, including Goldman Sachs (GS), BlackRock (BLK) and PIMCO over claims on $108 billion in mortgage backed securities. The eight-cents-on-the-dollar deal faces objections from AIG (AIG), three Federal Home Loan Banks and States Attorneys General of New York and Delaware.

The $8.5 billion figure is the work of RRMS, a three-person consulting firm in Midtown Manhattan, hired by Bank of New York Mellon (BK), the trustee that is supposed to be responsible for protecting the interests of bondholders.

According to a transcript of the call hosted by Mayo, the analyst said he was "shocked that such a small firm with such a short time in existence in an out-of-the-way area (Diamond District in NYC) would be responsible for deriving such an important number."

Mayo added that the office is "in the part of town where pre-Giuliani [you] would certainly not go at night, and maybe be even careful during the day."

Mayo encouraged the investors on the call to visit RRMS's offices, which I did (see the video embedded here if you're reading this story on TheStreet.com or otherwise by Googling "This 3 Person Office Could Save Bank of America $100B"). I also met Brian Lin -- a 15-year Wall Street and veteran who has worked at Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and Nomura Securities -- and his two colleagues, Allen Gutterman and Vincent Spoto.

"It makes no sense to me if you judge a person's ability by their office space," Lin told me. "I don't know what background he comes from, but I come from a humble background, so I feel safe -- especially in this area of town."

Lin's work faced extensive questions from Isaac Gradman, the legal expert brought in by Mayo on the conference call. Gradman and Mayo mentioned Lin by name a few times during the call, and he has been subjected to similar scrutiny in the past.

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