Have you been burned by Bank of America (NYSE:BAC)? If so, then you're in good company.
Two weeks ago we published a widely read article about how the nation's second largest bank by assets is alleged to have delayed and denied mortgage modifications to qualified homeowners under the Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP. Why would it do such a thing? According to the testimony of a former employee, "the more we delayed the HAMP modification process, the more fees Bank of America would collect." As I noted in a follow-up piece about the bank's abhorrent record for customer service, exorbitant executive salaries don't pay themselves.
The interest generated by these two articles was surprising but consistent. In short, people are mad at Bank of America. And they're mad for good reason.
Here's how one commenter put it:
If you have never experienced [Bank of America], take a moment to experience what so many people have experienced.
You can do this in the privacy of your own home. Place your thumb inside the window sill of a double hung window or inside the jamb of a heavy exterior door and slam it shut!
If you did this, you now know this experience is more enjoyable than a relationship with Bank of America.
My experience with Bank of America taught me one thing: I would go to a loan shark before I would ever do business with them again.
I have been a [Bank of America] customer since Feb 1999. Not a month goes by when it [doesn't try] its best to lose me as a customer. I hate hate hate them. And once you set up all the autopays, it is darned hard to undo it all (but I am doing it).
[Bank of America] takes perverse pleasure in hurting its customers.
I could go on and on with the complaints, but I suspect you get the point.
But while these articles dealt with relatively narrow band of unscrupulous behavior -- that is, allegations that it unjustly delayed and denied mortgage modifications under HAMP and thereby pushed thousands, if not tens of thousands, of homeowners into foreclosure -- a cursory glance at Bank of America's past suggests that this is more than an isolated incident.
The pattern that's emerged over the past few years is one of a bank that cares neither about its customers nor, for that matter, its shareholders. It earned an estimated $4.5 billion by reordering its customers' debit card transactions in a manner that maximized overdraft frees. It settled a lawsuit alleging that it misled shareholders about the 2008 Merrill Lynch acquisition. It's being sued for intentionally originating and selling "thousands of fraudulent and otherwise defective residential mortgage loans" to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that later defaulted, causing more than $1 billion in losses and countless foreclosures.
And most recently, it's been reported that multiple state attorneys general are contemplating new lawsuits against the bank, as well as Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC), for violating the terms of the $25 billion National Mortgage Settlement, which the nation's largest mortgage servicers entered into at the beginning of last year.
To be fair, Bank of America is far from the only bank that's been accused of blatant misdeeds over the last few years. Both Citigroup (NYSE:C) and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) are purportedly under investigation for their involvement in a scandal to manipulate the London interbank offered rate, or LIBOR. And the British banking behemoth HSBC (NYSE:HSBC) settled a case earlier this year that alleged that it illegally conducted transactions on behalf of Mexican drug lords, terrorists, and customers in places like Iran, Libya, and Sudan, among others.
But the misdeeds of others is no solace to the thousands of unwitting victims of Bank of America's less scrupulous practices.
And it's for this reason that we're calling on you, the reader, to share your story with us about Bank of America in the comment section below. Good and/or bad. It's our intention, if sufficient interest is generated, to publish the most egregious comments in a subsequent article and to present them to the bank. If Bank of America has burned you, this is your opportunity to vent, if you will, or to share what happened and thereby help others to avoid a similar experience.
John Maxfield owns shares of Bank of America. The Motley Fool recommends Bank of America and Wells Fargo and owns shares of Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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