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BAC Sees $7.2B Drop in Mortgage Service Expenses

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Recent comments by Bank of America (BAC - Get Report) CFO Bruce Thompson back up the higher valuation investors place on the company over Citigroup (C - Get Report) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM - Get Report).

Following a meeting with Thompson, KBW analyst Christopher Mutascio on Sunday in a note to clients wrote that Bank of America's "Management expects Legacy Asset Servicing costs to fall from $2.3 billion in 2Q13 to below $2.0 billion per quarter by 4Q13." The fourth-quarter estimate is lower than the $2.1 billion Thompson estimated during Bank of America's second-quarter earnings call on July 17.

Legacy Asset Servicing (LAS) refers to the servicing of problem mortgage loans and maintenance of repossessed real estate, with the "Legacy" mainly being that of Bank of America's ill-timed and ill-fated purchase of Countrywide Financial in 2008.

"From there, management expects the quarterly run rate to fall to $1.0 billion by 4Q14 and normalize to $500 million per quarter by 4Q15," Mutascio added. "So, between 2Q13 and 4Q15, management expects Legacy Asset Servicing costs to decrease $7.2 billion on an annualized basis."

Those are remarkable figures. While the cost savings will mainly consist of depressing rounds of layoffs, it is important to point out that the LAS staff has ballooned in order for Bank of America to work through an epic number of nonperforming mortgage loans.

CEO Brian Moynihan's "Project New BAC" efficiency program was initiated in 2011, with a goal of lowering the company's annual expenses by $8 billion. According to Mutascio, "Management expects to hit a $6 billion (of the total $8 billion) run rate by 4Q13. On a quarterly basis, this means the expense save run rate should be $1.5 billion by 4Q13 with an additional $500 million in quarterly cost saves coming by 4Q14."

So Moynihan's multiyear "normalization" for Bank of America can be expected to pretty much be completed by the end of 2015. The company's $8.5 billion settlement of Countrywide mortgage repurchase claims by private investors is still being contested by some investors, but the entire amount was reserved for during the second quarter of 2011, meaning that even a modified settlement is not expected to greatly increase Bank of America's expenses.

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