NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Bank of America ( BAC)'s decision to move derivatives to a bank subsidiary, reported by Bloomberg Tuesday and still unconfirmed by the bank, has been met with remarkable indifference by the markets so far, though assuming the story is accurate it is hard to understand why. According to the report, Bank of America made the decision at the request of counterparties--client institutions with exposure to the bank. That would be worrisome, since reports of counterparty nervousness in 2008 regularly caused massive selloffs in shares of Morgan Stanley ( MS), Goldman Sachs ( GS), and, more troublingly, at Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers prior to the demise of those institutions.
True, Bank of America would probably enjoy more government support than Bear or Lehman got, and true, Bank of America is already trading for just a fraction of its book value. Still, Bank of America shares have been fairly resilient since the story's publication. From Tuesday's close through mid-Thursday they were down nearly 7%, though that was after a more than 10% jump on Tuesday. Indeed, signs that Bank of America's counterparties are uneasy ought to be the kind of thing that ignites a marketwide plunge, and according to a recent report by International Financing Review Bank of America isn't the only institution whose clients are getting anxious. An e-mail message to a Bank of America spokesman was not returned. Part of the reason for the muted stock market reaction may be that Bloomberg chose to emphasize a dispute between U.S. bank regulators over whether Bank of America should be allowed to move its derivatives, rather than to highlight more prominently the fact that the move is being pushed by anxious counterparties. That may be what allowed Christopher Whalen, in a Reuters blog post, to interpret the Bloomberg story as a sign Bank of America is preparing for a restructuring. But that doesn't appear to be the motive for Bank of America's decision. However, it may ultimately be the result. -- Written by Dan Freed in New York.