The final piece of Brown's thesis is that Bank of America's balance sheet will remain the same size even though earnings will grow. That is because bad loans made leading up to the 2007 crisis that are losing money will be replaced by new profitable loans. One of the big worries still hanging over Bank of America is litigation risk, particularly from investors who bought bonds stuffed with problem mortgages Bank of America's Countrywide Financial unit underwrote prior to 2008. Analysts such as Harry Fong of MKM Partners believe a negative settlement for the bank--for example in ongoing MBIA ( MBI)litigation-- could substantially increase the cost of settling related but larger cases. Brown who says he knows both Bank of America as an institution and MBIA CEO Jay Brown very well, "would not have expected
the MBIA litigation to be as contentious as it is." He concedes he "didn't spend a lot of time taking about various litigations with Bruce Thompson the CFO because there's not really very much he can say, but both myself and my partner came out of the meeting surprised at how confident he was that the potential settlement had been ring fenced--and when I say settlement I mean all the litigation." Bank of America's negative brand image is another issue that has weighed down the institution. "One of the comments from Bruce yesterday was you know we want to stop being the daily source of news and whether that be because we've got a low equity valuation or our credit's being downgraded or we're doing something that hurts consumers, it's all of those things and we need to do a better job of staying out of the news," Brown says. A bank spokesman did not respond to an email message seeking comment. Brown acknowledges Bank of America "among the large banks, ranks at the bottom," of consumer and brand surveys. He expects that will change over time, however he isn't sure how much Bank of America can do proactively to change its image. Longtime shareholder Jonathan Finger of Finger Interests has saidBank of America needs to proactively get out in front of the public in the way Lee Iacocca did turning Chrysler around in the 1980's.