Shares of Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) are essentially flat today as investors remain weary over a critical legal hearing involving the lender that's currently underway in New York City. Roughly an hour into the trading session, nation's second largest bank by assets is up by $0.01, or 0.07%.
Bank of America has moved aggressively this year to clean up the legal liability that's weighed on its stock since the financial crisis. In January, it announced a massive settlement with Fannie Mae. In April, it followed suit by taking care of multiple class action lawsuits related to securities fraud. And in May, it put the particularly contentious dispute with mortgage-bond insurer MBIA (NYSE: MBI ) behind both of the companies, sending shares of the latter skyrocketing on the news.
Although there are still a handful of remaining cases to deal with, none is more important than the one that's currently before a judge in New York state court. At issue in the hearing is whether or not Bank of America's $8.5 billion accord with Bank of New York Mellon (NYSE: BK ) and 22 institutional investors, including bond giants BlackRock (NYSE: BLK ) and PIMCO, should be judicially approved. While the deal was reached in 2011, it's been held up by other investors in the same mortgage-backed securities because they view it as a "pennies on the dollar" bargain for Bank of America.
So far, few salacious details have emerged from the hearing, which got under way at the beginning of last week. As I discussed here, the most interesting thing investors have learned is that Bank of America not only considered putting the maligned Countrywide Financial into bankruptcy, but that it went so far as to get approval to do so from its primary regulator, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. The significance of this speaks to whether or not Bank of America is, in fact, legally obligated to cover Countrywide's liabilities.
The latest news to emerge came from testimony on Friday about how at least one of the parties to the agreement viewed the deal. According to PIMCO's Kent Smith, an executive vice president at the California-based asset manager, the deal was "outstanding" and is in the "best interest of our clients to support it." Suffice it to say, while this is only one statement from one witness in the sure-to-be extenuated legal hearing, it's nevertheless a nice endorsement for Bank of America to have in its corner given that PIMCO is one of the largest and most sophisticated financial firms in the world.
Will testimony like this be enough to marshal the hearing through to a positive outcome for Bank of America? That remains to be seen. In the meantime, I encourage you to check out our premium research report on B of A. In it, analysts Anand Chokkavelu, CFA, and Matt Koppenheffer, Financials bureau chief, lift the veil on the bank's operations, including detailing three reasons to buy and three reasons to sell its stock. Click here now to claim your copy now.