Bank of America Web Fail: When Do Regulators Step In?

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Bank of America ( BAC) has had difficulties with its website intermittently for six days, even since it announced a controversial $5 monthly fee it would charge to certain customers who use its debit cards for purchases.

Spokeswoman Tara Burke says it is working, even though the home page acknowledged possible slowness for much of the day Wednesday before finally reverting to normal late in the afternoon.

"Our Online Banking systems are available to customers. Given the last few days, we are rigorously monitoring our online banking system, and chose to continue deploying an alternate home page to ensure that customers get to the right destination quickly," she said.

While there has been much speculation about hackers, Bank of America, while refusing to say what is wrong, says it isn't hacking.

"Every indication is that recent performance issues have not been the result of hacking, malware or a denial of service attack," Burke said.

But how long can this go on before regulators get involved?

People need to access their money, after all. Burke would not comment on what regulators have had to say about the issue, or whether shareholders can look forward to any fines or sanctions against the bank. A spokeswoman for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau declined to comment. Spokespeople for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency did not respond to requests for comment.

"Regulators are already on top of it," says Rochdale Securities analyst Dick Bove. "Bank of America has 100 auditors and examiners inside the building, all paid for by the U.S. government. Any event of this nature will bring the regulators in immediately. They're probably standing in the IT department right now. Nothing a big bank does goes unnoticed."

Still, Bove does not believe Bank of America's stock price, which has lost some 10% since the problems first surfaced, has been impacted by the web-related problems.

"I doubt anyone would sell the stock because of this. Unless someone can actually demonstrate that they're losing customers because of it," he says.

-- Written by Dan Freed in New York.
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