Shareholders bash Bank of America management
NEW YORK — Shareholders and home loan customers ran roughshod over Bank of America’s management Wednesday, as its chief executive said it was still struggling with its mortgage portfolio in a deeply troubled housing market.
“We are a much stronger company than last year,” CEO Brian Moynihan said at the largest US banks shareholder meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“We have lowered the risk in our business, built capital, and put many legacy issues behind us. We have a franchise that is pushing forward through the recovery, winning with its top market shares and aggressively managing and addressing the mortgage challenges it faces.”
But investors, upset over two years of a weak share price and a bare one cent per share dividend for last year, laid into management over their performance and pay.
“This dividend is not even worth cashing the check,” said one, saying the company’s share value had fallen 75 percent from its highs.
“How do any of you have the guts to accept any bonus?”
Michael Garland, representing New York City’s pension fund, called their efforts on mortgage issues “insufficient”.
After his proposal for an independent review of the way the bank handles foreclosures, he blasted management:
“If that’s the way you treat shareholders that hold $1.3 billion of your company, I can only imagine how you treat your mortgage customers,” he said.
BoA and other large banks have been sued by a group of states for mistreating mortgage borrowers and, as a result, leaving some of the social burden of foreclosures and home repossessions on the states.
The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that the banks have proposed to pay the states $5 billion to settle the complaints, far below the $20 billion demanded.
The states also want the banks to reduce the balances of many mortgage-holders’ loans.
BoA management acknowledged the problems in its home-loan operations.
“All our businesses were profitable in the first quarter except the mortgage business,” said Moynihan.
He called the depressed housing sector “the last problem from the financial crisis” for the bank.
“We recognize the need to continue the loan modification program,” he said.
He also said the bank will pay a dividend “as soon as we get approval” — a reference to the federal regulators’ refusal to let banks make payouts while their balance sheets remain weak.
“When we are sure that work is done … we’ll ask our regulators,” Moynihan said.
“We are behind some of the things we wanted to accomplish,” admitted BoA chairman Charles Holliday.
“But … we’re going to fix it .. we are going to rebuild,” he said.