Bank of America Muddies Disclosure Ahead of Earnings

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Bank of America ( BAC) has reduced to five from six the number of business segments it will report to investors, the bank disclosed in a regulatory filing on Wednesday.

Bank of America had previously reported Deposits, Card Services, Consumer Real Estate Services (CRES), Global Commercial Banking, Global Banking & Markets (GBAM) and Global Wealth & Investment Management (GWIM), with the remaining operations recorded as "All Other."
Corporate shape-shifting at its dullest.

Beginning April 19, when the bank reports its first-quarter earnings, it will report just five segments: Consumer & Business Banking (CBB), CRES, Global Banking, Global Markets and GWIM.

The bank explains: "The former Deposits and Card Services segments, as well as the Business Banking business, which was included in the former Global Commercial Banking segment, are now reflected in CBB. The former Global Commercial Banking segment was combined with the Global Corporate and Investment Banking business, which was included in the former Global Banking & Markets (GBAM) segment, to form Global Banking. The remaining global markets business of GBAM is now reported as a separate Global Markets segment."

Got all that? Didn't think so.

While the bank is sure to argue the new arrangement is more "streamlined," it likely isn't doing investors and analysts any favors. Fewer business segments would seem to provide a golden opportunity for less disclosure.

If Bank of America does indeed disclose less, it wouldn't be the first time for Bank of America's current management under CEO Brian Moynihan. In the bank's latest 10-K filing, for example, it did away with the practice of showing divisional headcount.

Another potential advantage for Bank of America management in the new structure is that historical comparisons will become more difficult. Don't be surprised if in two or three years Global Banking reports "the best quarter in its history," without bothering to remind us that it didn't exist before 2012.

A Bank of America spokesman didn't respond to an email message seeking comment.

-- Written by Dan Freed in New York.

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