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Entries in Bank of America (63)

Wednesday
Feb132013

Boca Mansion Squatter Releases Music Video

ABC News(BOCA RATON, Fla.) -- The Florida man who gained notoriety from claiming he had a legal right to squat in a $2.5 million home in Boca Raton has produced a music video, shot against a backdrop of the mansion, days after police ejected him from the home.

Bank of America asked a court to eject Andre “Loki” Barbosa from a home it owned in Boca Raton, Fla., leading police to seize the home last week while he was away from the house.

On Monday, Barbosa released a music video on YouTube, showing he and others dancing in front of green screen images of the home, as first reported by the Sun-Sentinel newspaper.

The Brazilian national, 23, has not been charged by police for any crime. In December, he filed papers with the court, using a legal maneuver to say he had a right to stay in the home called “adverse possession.”

Bank of America filed an injunction against Barbosa last month.

Last week, in a statement issued after the home was secured, a spokeswoman for Bank of America said it appreciated “the assistance of local authorities and the patience of neighbors as we worked to have the trespassers removed."

“We take trespassing seriously, and in the interest of the community, we will take appropriate legal action to protect this and all properties we service,” the statement said.

 

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Jan262013

Bank of America Takes Florida Squatter to Court Over $2.5 Million Mansion

Jin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images(BOCA RATON, Fla.) -- Bank of America is taking a Florida man to court after he attempted to use an antiquated state law to legally take possession of a $2.5 million mansion that is currently owned by the bank.

Andre "Loki" Barbosa has lived in a five-bedroom Boca Raton, Fla., waterside property since July, and police have reportedly been unable to remove him.

The Brazilian national, 23, who reportedly refers to himself as "Loki Boy," cites Florida's "adverse possession" law, in which a party may acquire title from another by openly occupying their land and paying real property tax for at least seven years.

The house is listed as being owned by Bank of America as of July 2012, and that an adverse possession was filed in July. After Bank of America foreclosed on the property last year, the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser's Office was notified that Barbosa would be moving in, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

The Sun-Sentinel reported that he posted a notice in the front window of the house naming him as a "living beneficiary to the Divine Estate being superior of commerce and usury." On Facebook, a man named Andre Barbosa calls the property "Templo de Kamisamar."

After Barbosa gained national attention for his brazen attempt, Bank of America filed an injunction on Jan. 23 to evict Barbosa and eight unidentified occupants.

In the civil complaint, Bank of America said Barbosa and other tenants "unlawfully entered the property" and "refused to permit the Plaintiff agents entry, use, and possession of its property." In addition to eviction, Bank of America is asking for $15,000 in damages to be paid to cover attorney's expenses.

Police were called Dec. 26 to the home but did not remove Barbosa, according to the Sentinel. Barbosa reportedly presented authorities with the adverse possession paperwork at the time.

Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Povery Law Center, says police officers may be disinclined to take action even if they are presented with paperwork that is invalid.

"A police officer walks up to someone who is claiming a house now belongs to him, without any basis at all, is handed a big sheaf of documents, which are incomprehensible," Potok said. "I think very often the officers ultimately feel that they're forced to go back to headquarters and try to figure out what's going on before they can actually toss someone in the slammer."

A neighbor of the Boca property, who asked not be named, told ABCNews.com that he entered the empty home just before Christmas to find four people inside, one of whom said the group is establishing an embassy for their mission, and that families would be moving in and out of the property. Barbosa was also among them.

The neighbor said he believes that Barbosa is a "patsy."

"This young guy is caught up in this thing," the neighbor said. "I think it's going on on a bigger scale."

Barbosa could not be reached for comment.

The neighbor said that although the lights have been turned on at the house, the water has not, adding that this makes it clear it is not a permanent residence. The neighbor also said the form posted in the window is "total gibberish," which indicated that the house is an embassy, and that those who enter must present two forms of identification, and respect the rights of its indigenous people.

"I think it's a group of people that see an opportunity to get some money from the bank," the neighbor said. "If they're going to hold the house ransom, then the bank is going to have to go through an eviction process.

"They're taking advantage of banks, where the right hand doesn't know where the left hand is," the neighbor said. "They can't clap."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan072013

Markets Pull Back After Last Week's Gains; Foreclosure Settlement Affects Bank Shares

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- U.S. markets cooled off Monday after last week's surge to their highest weekly advancements in over a year.

Investors took profits from last week's run-up, after the S&P reached levels not seen since the start of the Great Recession. The S&P and Nasdaq are up more than four percent since Jan. 1. Things could change this week as corporate earnings season kicks off Tuesday.

The Dow lost 51 points to close at 13,384. The Nasdaq closed down three points, and the S&P lost nearly five points.

About 400,000 homeowners, who lost their homes to foreclosure, will be eligible for compensation under a settlement between federal regulators and 10 major banks and mortgage companies.  The banks agreed to pay $8.5 billion to settle complaints of mishandled paperwork and skipped steps in the foreclosure process. Some of the homeowners could receive up to $125,000 with others claiming just a few hundred dollars.

Bank of America said it would pay mortgage lender Fannie Mae $3.6 billion and buy back $6.8 billion in loans to settle mortgage claims from the housing meltdown.

Bank of America stock dipped down 0.17 percent after the settlement's announcement, while Fannie Mae shares inched higher by 12.17 percent.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan072013

Bank of America Agrees to $10B Settlement with Fannie Mae

Jin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Bank of America agreed on Monday to pay Fannie Mae billions to settle claims stemming from the housing crisis.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based bank will pay more than $3 billion in cash and buy back an additional $7 billion worth of mortgages sold between 2000 and 2008.  Fannie Mae said the loans were flawed and it accused Bank of America and its subsidiary, Countrywide, of misrepresenting their quality.

Since Bank of America bought Countrywide, it has been responsible for $40 billion in costs.  The bank's chief executive called this agreement "a significant step" in resolving mortgage issues.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Sep232012

Bank of America's Cost-Cutting Plans a Reflection of Banking Industry's Woes

Jin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- It may not be a happy holiday holiday season for thousands of Bank of America employees. The bank could be cutting 16,000 jobs by the end of December, accelerating the 30,000 layoffs it had previously said would take a "few years."

The Wall Street Journal reported a document provided to top management that described the details of the 16,000 job cuts, which would leave 260,000 in the remaining headcount, the lowest number since 2008.

After closing 178 bank branches last year, the bank is also planning to close 200 branches this year, a person familiar with the matter told the Journal.

Last September, Bank of America announced a cost-cutting plan that would include reducing 30,000 jobs, the biggest layoff announcement last year by a company, according to outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas.

"As the decisions are implemented, employment levels in the areas under review during Phase I are expected to be reduced by approximately 30,000 jobs over the next few years," the bank said in a statement at the time.

Jerome Dubrowski, a spokesman for Bank of America, declined to comment on published reports about the company's cost-cutting plans and the number of jobs the company has reduced so far.

Shares of the company closed down 0.82 percent to $9.11 on Friday.


If the bank is accelerating its planned job cuts or slimming down operations, that would actually reflect a healthy business move as opposed to a sign of a troubled company, said Anthony Polini, an analyst for investment firm Raymond James.

Even with the possible job cuts and branch closures, the bank will still be considered the largest retail bank, Polini said, with a strong presence coast-to-coast.

"The company is doing great," Polini said. "It's in another phase of expense control."

Polini said the environment of low-interest rates (the Federal Reserve has committed to keeping the federal funds rate near zero at least until 2015), has negatively affected banking profitability.

Regulatory issues have also affected banks' costs, Polini said. The capital requirement burden, with banks required to have higher capital ratios as a result of the financial crisis, has also been a "burden" for banks, he said.

Polini said the closure of bank branches is likely to persist in the industry as more customers bank online and on smartphones.

"There is no country more overbanked than the U.S.," Polini said. "I don't know what you see more of in New York City: Starbucks or bank branches."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep202012

Child Actors Sue Bank of America

Jin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Bank of America is once again in the hot seat, this time for allegedly withdrawing money from child entertainers’ bank accounts, according to a recent class-action lawsuit.

According to the complaint, Bank of America charged child actors’ Coogan Accounts (aka Blocked Trust Accounts or Trust Accounts) monthly service fees, which is illegal.

The Coogan Law, named after child star Jackie Coogan, who sued his mother as an adult after learning she had spent millions of dollars he made as a child star, requires an employer to set aside 15 percent of a child actors’ gross earnings in trust and place it in an account that’s only accessible when the minor is emancipated from his parents or turns 18.

“The law prevents any withdrawals from a Coogan Account until the child becomes 18 or emancipated,” David Markun, a lawyer with Markun Zusman & Compton, who is representing the plaintiffs, told ABC News. “But Bank of America took out monthly service charges. We believe service charges are a withdrawal.”

Markun and attorney Daria Carlson, who is also working on the case, estimate that as many as 15,000 child actors could be affected by Bank of America’s actions over the last four years.

“In some instances, the funds were completely depleted,” said Markun. “So, somebody might have had money in an account and over the years Bank of America took out the money and by the time the person became 18 they actually owed the bank money.”

Plaintiffs include Jasmine Phillips aka Jasmine Gonzales, as trustee for Alex Gonzales, and Anesha Coleman as trustee for Jadon Monroe.

Although the class seeks compensatory damages for unfair business practices as well as an injunction, Markun said he would rather see the bank “do the right thing and reimburse these children rather than go through legal shenanigans. We hope that they really look at the law and what they did and do the right thing.”

A spokesperson for Bank of America told ABC News that the company was reviewing the case and could not comment.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Sep042012

Obama Stadium Speech Puts Bank Battle in Spotlight

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) -- When President Obama takes the stage in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday inside the 75,000-seat Bank of America Stadium, he and the venue's namesake will become forever intertwined in the annals of political history.

Obama will become the first sitting American president to give an acceptance speech in an outdoor pro-sports arena with tickets available to the general public.

It's also the first time an incumbent will make a primetime convention appeal in the shadow of a major bank he battled during his first term.

While the Charlotte-based Bank of America does not own the stadium or have a sponsorship role in the Democratic National Convention, its name is everywhere, from glowing letters on the stadium's facade to logos plastered near the end zone Jumbotron.

Each reference is a reminder of the bank's high-profile role in the financial crisis that triggered the Great Recession, a $45 billion government bailout and what has been its, at times, contentious relationship with Obama over the past three and a half years.

At the height of the financial crisis in 2009, the president publicly shamed Bank of America and its peers for the financial practices that contributed to the recession.  And he lobbied them to boost lending and back regulatory reform.

"I think that the 'bully pulpit' can be a powerful thing," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said in 2009 after Bank of America executives met with Obama.

Amid heated populist debate last year over Bank of America's planned $5 monthly debit card fee, Obama made the bank a poster child of profit-seeking at the expense of the average consumer.

He called the fee "not a good practice" and blasted the bank's unwillingness to "take a little bit less of a profit" during an interview with ABC News.

Earlier this year, the Obama Justice Department squeezed millions from the bank as part of a $25 billion federal settlement over abusive mortgage practices and assurances it would cease the practice of so-called "robo-signing," which helped push thousands of homeowners into vulnerable financial positions and into foreclosure.

"America's biggest banks, banks that were rescued by taxpayer dollars, will be required to right these wrongs," Obama said at the time.  "They will deliver some measure of justice for families that have already been victims of abusive practices."

The juxtaposition of Bank of America and Obama's nomination -- more coincidence than choice -- may be awkward for Democrats, who have seemed eager to distance themselves from the ties during their big convention week.

Several early, official, DNC-related communications referred to the final night's venue as "Panther's Stadium," suggesting an attempt to drop the Bank of America reference -- a motive Democratic officials have denied.

Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee in August quietly announced it was transferring all of its accounts and financial business from Bank of America to the union-owned Amalgamated Bank.  One credit line has already moved and other accounts are underway, sources said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Jul142012

Bank of America, Countrywide Whistleblower Kept 3-Year Secret

David McNew/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Would you be able to keep a secret for four years that was so big it would make the five large U.S. banks pay up about $25 billion in a legal settlement?

Kyle Lagow of Plano, Texas, had to keep a secret even from his wife and five children that he was one of the whistleblowers who led to this year's $25 billion mortgage settlement with banks over inappropriate lending schemes. His lawsuit led to a $1 billion settlement with Countrywide Financial's parent, Bank of America, in February with the U.S. attorney's office. Lagow's suit was finally unsealed under the U.S. False Claims Act in May, when he was awarded $14.5 million, a percentage of the settlement.

Lagow, 50, said the settlement is a "start" in settling improper mortgage practices with FHA-sponsored loans, but that was only 6 to 10 percent of his company's practice.

"The conventional side is massive. I don't know how to put a number on it," Lagow said with a deep Texas drawl. "There were such a large number of loans that went through the machinery. Will Congress do anything and say, 'We need to fix this machinery before it's going to happen again?' Who knows?"

It all started because Lagow was an appraiser from 2004 to 2008 with LandSafe Inc., a subsidiary of the subprime mortgage lender Countrywide Financial.

During his time working at Countrywide, which was purchased by Bank of America in January 2008, Lagow witnessed his company making bad loans on homes with low collateral. During that heyday of housing lending, executives encouraged appraisers to boost home values for sales.

"The game was rigged when you brought the people into it," he said.

Lagow said he tried to make suggestions of how to "fix" the situation.

"You go in there, figure out who was taking advantage of them, you lower the interest rates, make it easier to stay in their homes," Lagow had proposed to the company. "There were three or four things I wanted to do and they looked at me like I was nuts and said, 'No thanks, Kyle. Go back to doing your job.'"

Lagow complained to company executives about the inappropriate appraisal and lending practices, but they didn't find impropriety after investigating the matter, according to the suit.

"If you're an unsophisticated homebuyer, you walk in and all you want is the American dream," Lagow said. "You don't sit down and analyze that they own the appraisal business, mortgage business, and has a joint venture with the builder. No one was looking out for them."

He said he was never given a clear reason for losing his job in November 2008, but that the company "wanted to go in a different direction."

"My suspicion was that they didn't want Bank of America to know what they were up to," he said. "That's just my opinion."

As the recession deepened, and seeing "a lot of people who were damaged" in the housing market, Lagow contacted Hagens Berman LLP in Seattle in the spring of 2009. Lagow said he chose to contact the law firm because it previously filed a related suit against KB Homes.

"I went to them and I said, 'What can I do to help you? How can I help these people get back on track and make them whole?'" Lagow said.

In May 2009, he filed his lawsuit against Countrywide and various executives and it was sealed as part of the wider Department of Justice investigation. He could not speak a word of the lawsuit, the federal probe or that he was trying to help fix a "rigged system" to anyone, while being unemployed and nearly broke.

"If you can imagine being in a bad economy and, all of a sudden, your income dropping to nothing and not being able to tell people or your wife and kids ... it was probably worse on the kids," he said. "Your kids looking at you like you are a failure. A lot of people would have bailed out. It was pretty tough. There were a lot of money issues and lack of money and, in your own mind, you think they're looking at you because you failed."

Three years later, the suit was finally unsealed, allowing Lagow to finally tell his family his secret, as reported by Reuters. He said he sat his family down in May, and explained the lawsuit to them and that it had been resolved.

"I don't think anybody believed until the funds actually hit the bank," he said.

Shayne Stevenson, one of his attorneys, said Lagow deserves the payment he received after all those years of waiting for legal process at professional and personal risk.

"Kyle, like most whistleblowers, did not come to a law firm trying to make a lot of money," Stevenson said. "He came to the firm because he wanted to help homeowners and appraisers who were being mistreated by Countrywide."

Because Lagow couldn't speak with anyone about the lawsuit, he said he was in constant contact with his attorneys, like Stevenson and Steve Berman.

"I bugged them at all hours of the day," Lagow said of Stevenson and an earlier attorney who worked on the case, "and I continued to drive both of them nuts."

He said he is leaving most of the $14.5 million, minus attorney fees and taxes, to his five children, ages seven to 26.

Unemployed for three years and, even at 50 and being hopefully a little bit wiser, Lagow said he is still actively looking for a job.

"There's some organization out there who is going to look at this and say, 'Here's a guy who wants to do things right. We want that person on our team or part of our organization. We want the credibility and we want to say we try to do things right.' I don't know what firm that is because I haven't been able to find it yet," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jul102012

Florida Man Claims Jiggle Joint Stripped Him of $50K

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(CLEARWATER, Fla.) -- A Florida man claims he got stripped -- financially speaking -- by his strip club.

David Sockol, attorney for Lokesh Simon James of Pinellas Park, Fla., says that in early March his client racked up $600 worth of legitimate charges -- VIP dances, champagne and beer -- at Bliss Cabaret in Clearwater. But the club, he says, kept piling on the charges, unbeknownst to Mr. James. When James later opened up his monthly Bank of America credit card statement, he was shocked to see he'd been denuded of $50,000.

James, says Sockol, signed a credit card slip for the first $600. But after that, and for the next three hours James was in the club, Bliss “kept running up his card” at four-minute intervals– "$5,000 here, $4,000 there, a $2,000 tip."  The club, says Sockol, "has no records of what he was claimed to be purchasing."

"There’s no way to spend that kind of money," the attorney told the Tampa Tribune. "How many dances would it take before you run up $50,000 at $20 a dance?"

Now James is suing Bliss for breach of contract and for theft.

Bank of America accepted the charges, says Sockol, even though the credit limit on James’ card was only $20,000. According to the attorney, when James protested the charges to the bank as fraudulent, he was told he’d have to pay, because he had authorized the initial charge.

A Bank of America spokesperson contacted by ABC News declined to comment on an individual customer dispute. Customers, she says, “Can dispute any transaction as fraudulent or unauthorized,” and are held accountable for charges found upon investigation to be legitimate.

A representative for the parent company of Bliss Cabaret said she was not sure whether or not James had been charged the correct amount, but declined to comment further because the incident is still under investigation.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun212012

Five of America's Biggest Banks Downgraded

Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Moody’s Investors Service announced Thursday that it had downgraded the credit ratings of 15 banks, including five of America's biggest financial institutions: Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley.

As The New York Times explains, a downgrade like this could have “serious implications for a bank’s bottom line, potentially increasing the cost of borrowing and eroding the confidence of customers and lenders. Trading partners may opt to move their business elsewhere."

Moody's lowered credit ratings were due to less confidence in the banks' long-term profit and growth prospects because of so many international debt problems.

While the action does make it more difficult for banks to fund investment activites because of a hike in short-term borrowing costs, Moody's action is not expected to have much of an impact on Wall Street Friday.

For the most part, the banks were anticipating the downgrade from Moody's and have been putting away cash on the side to deal with it.

Ultimately, however, consumers can expect a more difficult time getting loans for small businesses, cars and mortgages -- a development that will further slow down economic growth.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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