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Investors may be forgiven if they were beginning to think that the worst of the mortgage meltdown mess has been cleaned up for Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) . After all, the big bank just settled with Fannie Mae for $11.6 billion , as well as its portion of the $8.5 billion deal between regulators and 10 lenders over fraudulent foreclosure practices.
Now, a wealthy Texas banker wants to round up enough private investors to go after banks such as B of A, JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) , Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS ) , Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS ) , and Citigroup (NYSE: C ) that he claims sold his company a passel of crummy residential mortgage-backed securities totaling at least $1 billion in value.
A difficult, though not impossible, maneuver
The Wall Street Journal notes that Andrew Beal's CXA Corp. placed an advertisement in that paper late last year listing a series of bonds it owns that the company considers of suspect quality. The ad encouraged other investors with interests in those instruments to contact CXA, ostensibly to join in the company's investigation. A similar ad was placed in another publication, as well.
Why is Beal doing this? Quite simply, to put the squeeze on the banks that sold the securities, allegedly under false pretenses. He just might be able to pull it off, for a couple of reasons: It's been done before, and he is extremely savvy.
Beal is known for making lemonade out of lemons, making his fortune through scooping up distressed assets such as real estate, corporate bonds, and residential and commercial real estate loans during times of crisis, and making money from them. His strategy has worked beautifully: He now has a net worth of $7 billion, according to Forbes' list of the world's billionaires .
For success , Beal needs to recruit investors with 25% of the voting rights for the bonds in a specific issue, who can then declare a default and sue the servicer of the loans. So far, only seven out of the 93 MBSes in question have gathered up enough votes to move forward.
But, it's a start, and it could be the beginning of another wave of investor lawsuits regarding faulty mortgage bonds. As B of A well knows, it is quite possible that this type of suit could cause no end of trouble for the aforementioned banks. Bank of America itself settled back in the summer of 2011 with 22 investors for $8.5 billion over very similar complaints, though various legal issues have postponed the actual payout.
One Fool's take
Will Beal be the instigator of yet another wave of lawsuits over toxic mortgage products? It's a real possibility -- after all, this is a man who managed to get the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to pay him $90 million after he sued the agency for its participation in the subprime mortgage market. And, thanks to Countrywide, Bank of America will likely have the largest chunk of those questionable securities. Despite efforts to clear the decks late last year, it looks like 2013 will have its own set of legal hassles for the beleaguered megabank.
While this scenario plays out, all eyes are turned to B of A's performance on the Fed's upcoming stress tests.To learn how this and other issues may affect the most talked-about bank out there, check out our in-depth company report on Bank of America. The report details Bank of America's prospects, including three reasons to buy and three reasons to sell. Just click here to get access.