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BofA settles for $165 million with credit union regulator

The logo of the Bank of America is pictured atop the Bank of America building in downtown Los Angeles November 17, 2011. REUTERS/Fred Prouse
The logo of the Bank of America is pictured atop the Bank of America building in downtown Los Angeles November 17, 2011. REUTERS/Fred Prouse

By Aruna Viswanatha

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Bank of America Corp agreed to pay $165 million to settle charges by the U.S. credit union regulator involving sales of mortgage-backed securities to corporate credit unions that led them to fail, the regulator said on Tuesday.

In February, the bank disclosed it had reached a preliminary agreement with the National Credit Union Administration, and said it would be covered by existing reserves, but did not disclose a value at the time.

The settlement adds to a growing list of mortgage-related legal troubles Bank of America has been able to put behind it, after sustaining more than $40 billion in losses from its home loan business since the financial crisis.

Most of those losses stemmed from its 2008 purchase of Countrywide Financial, once the largest U.S. subprime mortgage lender.

The new settlement is intended to resolve claims concerning mortgage securities offerings that the regulator had threatened to sue the bank and its Countrywide and Merrill Lynch units over, Bank of America said in its annual report.

A bank spokesman declined comment on Tuesday beyond the earlier filing. The credit union regulator did not release settlement papers and declined to provide additional details about the deal.

In recent months, Bank of America has moved closer to ending its mortgage troubles, with more than $14 billion in settlements announced in January alone.

Around $3 billion went to end a loan-by-loan review of past foreclosures mandated by the government. Another $11.6 billion went to resolve allegations from government mortgage finance company Fannie Mae that the bank improperly sold mortgages that later soured, and to resolve questions about foreclosure delays.

The bank has also sought to sign a $8.5 billion settlement to resolve claims from private investors who purchased toxic securities, but that deal is still awaiting approval in New York state court.

The credit union regulator previously indicated it objected to that proposed deal, but on Friday it withdrew its notice of intent to object without providing a reason for the change.

RECOVERING LOSSES

Separately, the regulator has filed 10 lawsuits against banks - including units of JPMorgan Chase & Co , Barclays , Credit Suisse , Goldman Sachs and Royal Bank of Scotland - over mortgage-backed securities they sold to corporate credit unions that later collapsed due to losses on the securities.

A consolidated hearing in the cases is scheduled for April 29 in Kansas federal court, where the lawsuits are filed.

The regulator has settled similar claims against Citigroup , Deutsche Bank and HSBC for a total of$170 million, with Deutsche Bank paying around $145 million.

The National Credit Union Administration has been trying to recover losses related to the failure of five institutions that it seized in 2009 and 2010 after they ran into trouble due to the crumbling housing market.

The wholesale credit unions have experienced more troubles than their retail counterparts because they did not face the same restrictions on permitted investments, leading to big losses during the financial crisis.

"We have a statutory obligation to secure recoveries for credit unions and ensure that consumers remain protected," Debbie Matz, the chairman of the regulator's board, said in the statement announcing the Bank of America settlement. "We will continue to expend every possible effort to fulfill that important responsibility."

Bank of America did not admit fault as part of the settlement, the credit union regulator said.

(Reporting by Aruna Viswanatha; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick, John Wallace and Bernard Orr)

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