Bank of America Looks Like First of Many
"This merger (Bank of America and Merrill Lynch) is a classic example of how the actions of our nation's largest financial institutions led to the near-collapse of our financial system," said Attorney General Cuomo. "Bank of America, through its top management, engaged in a concerted effort to deceive shareholders and American taxpayers at large. This was an arrogant scheme hatched by the bank's top executives who believed they could play by their own set of rules. In the end, they committed an enormous fraud and American taxpayers ended up paying billions for Bank of America's misdeeds." (Image)
Andrew Cuomo's complaint filed in the New York Supreme Court, County of New York against the Bank of America and two former top executives has the potential to push that too big to fail entity off the edge of a very steep cliff. The charges of massive fraud are based on a compelling and exhaustive filing on February 4.
A trial will likely involve testimony by the current Bank of America CEO and President Brian Moynihan against defendants Kenneth Lewis, the bank's former CEO and board chairman, former chief financial officer (CFO) Joseph L. Price, and the bank itself. Price is currently in charge of BofA's credit card division.
The complaint charges fraud before, during and after the bank's merger with struggling brokerage firm Merrill Lynch in late 2008. The fraud cost bank shareholders and citizens billions of dollars. This is the first major case brought against our nation's largest financial institutions. These are the same financial institutions and executives that nearly destroyed the economy.
Cuomo's press release states clearly that Lewis and the bank are examples of a much larger problem. It appears to be a leading indicator of future actions by the New York attorney general. Why else would Cuomo have generalized about institutions (plural) in his statement about this particular case?
If Cuomo succeeds in taking down one of the toughest guys on the block, he'll make a point to the rest of the crew: you're next, get ready to cooperate. Many of the key perpetrators are located in Cuomo's jurisdiction, although Bank of America (BofA) is headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina. Clearly, there are others in line for some New York style law and order.
Cuomo is joined in this action by Niel Barofsky, Special Inspector General for the federal government's Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). TARP provides the billions in bailouts to bogus bankers and corporations. There's a credit line of $23.7 trillion should it be needed for even more bailouts. Ever wonder why you can't get a loan? They've taken all the money.
Charges and remedies
The bank and the two named executives are charged with failing to
inform the bank's board of directors and shareholders of the major red
ink on Merrill Lynch's books prior to the merger. CEO Lewis, CFO Price,
and other BofA officers and professionals chose to hide $16 billion of
Merrill Lynch known pre tax losses prior to board approval. That's
fraud, plain and simple.
The complaint also charges that the same parties with strong arming the federal government for $20 billion to cover Merrill's debt by threatening to back out of the merger if the money wasn't forthcoming. Then Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke had encouraged BofA to acquire Merrill, apparently without a rider that BofA would get billions in the process to cover their fraudulent business practices.
The lawsuit seeks two overriding remedies. The two named defendants and the entire Bank of America are enjoined from "any conduct, conspiracy, contract, or agreement, and from adopting or following any practice, plan, program, scheme, artifice or device similar to, or having a purpose and effect similar to, the conduct complained of above."