New York Wants to Sue Wells Fargo and Bank of America

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has announced that the state  may sue Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC  ) and Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) in the months ahead for violating the mortgage settlement agreement that numerous banks reached last year with 49 states and the federal government. Since a lawsuit has yet to be filed, the markets don't seem to be reacting to the news -- both banks remain relatively unfazed.

Lawsuits are usually bad
In the not so distant past, a new lawsuit was often met with a negative market reaction, with Bank of America's performance usually the one suffering. In fact, the bank's many legal problems are often cited as the bear case to avoid the bank, despite its strong performance over the past year. Its performance yesterday as a result of its settlement with MBIA helps illustrate how much investors take note of its legal situation.  

Wells Fargo has avoided many of the same problems despite similar lawsuits, and is often viewed as the least worrisome of the "too big to fail" banks that dominate the headlines. As the nation's largest mortgage lender -- including $109 billion during the first quarter of 2013 alone -- Wells Fargo seems content avoiding some of the riskier practices that warrant big headlines at some of the other banks and focusing on the business of mortgage writing.

Nevertheless, when news surfaces about its bread and butter business, investors should take note and ensure that the bank is doing everything it can to comply with the settlement it reached last year. If Wells Fargo and Bank of America have violated the settlement agreement, it would be in their best interest to address the complaint.

Settlement monitor should come first
Under the terms of the settlement, the mortgage servicers are afforded the opportunity to work with the settlement monitor to address potential violations before being sued to fix the errors. In this regard, Schneiderman may be jumping the gun a bit, but he also has a duty to protect the citizens of New York in matters such as this, and stated that he only seeks an injunction requiring the banks to comply with the settlement, and not any damages or pernalties.

The settlement monitor, former North Carolina Banking Commissioner Joe Smith, said he appreciates Schneiderman's interest  in the issue, and that he is in the process of reviewing the banks' compliance, with a report of his findings coming in June . This report could be the final impetus for Schneiderman to follow through on his lawsuit, so perhaps the market is giving the banks the benefit of the doubt in the meantime.

Wells Fargo's dedication to solid, conservative banking helped it vastly outperform its peers during the financial meltdown. Today, Wells is the same great bank as ever, but with its stock trading at a premium to the rest of the industry, is there still room to buy, or is it time to cash in your gains? To help figure out whether Wells Fargo is a buy today, I invite you to download our premium research report from one of The Motley Fool's top banking analysts. Click here now for instant access to this in-depth take on Wells Fargo.


Read/Post Comments (0) | Recommend This Article (2)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

Be the first one to comment on this article.

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 2418157, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 11/26/2014 7:45:31 PM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...


Advertisement