How much did the financial crisis cost Bank of America (NYSE:BAC)? According to its chairman and CEO, Brian Moynihan, the final price tag is just under $200 billion, split among four sources.
First, Bank of America charged off $85 billion worth of loans, largely in its credit card portfolio, which expanded aggressively in the lead-up to the crisis only to crash in its wake. "In the boom we pushed cards through the branches and in mass mailings," Moynihan told Fortune's Shawn Tully in 2011. "To drive growth we gave cards to people who couldn't afford them."
The chart below gives a sense for the extent of its credit card losses. In 2009 alone, it charged off $29.6 billion in delinquent card loans.
The second-largest source were expenses in Bank of America's legacy assets and servicing unit, which was created in the wake of the crisis to dispose of the $2.2 trillion bank's noncore assets and toxic subprime mortgages. To date, this has cost Bank of America $46 billion.
Fortunately, LAS-related expenses are winding down rapidly. The unit employed 41,800 people at its peak in 2012. Today, that figure is only 12,600. Along the same lines, the unit's operating expenses (i.e., excluding litigation expenses) are now roughly $900 million a quarter compared to $3.1 billion a quarter two-and-a-half years ago.
Litigation expenses are third, coming in at $36 billion. This is dramatically lower than the roughly $100 billion in total claims and settlements won from the bank since 2008 for two reasons. First, because much of the relief consisted of repurchasing toxic mortgage-backed securities, which, while spawning losses, were nevertheless backed by collateral. And second, this figure excludes the single-largest source of legal liability: representations and warranties claims.
These claims are the final piece of the puzzle when it comes to gauging how much the financial crisis cost Bank of America. Like a retail store that allows its customers to return faulty merchandise, banks do the same with mortgages that they originate and then sell to institutional investors. If those loans later default, and if the default can be traced to substandard underwriting standards, then the institutional investors return them to the issuing banks. These are representation and warranties claims. All told, Bank of America allocated $28 billion over the last few years to absorb losses from them.
Add those up and you get $195 billion. Needless to say, this goes a long way toward explaining why Bank of America has struggled to recover from the crisis as quickly as many of its peers have.
John Maxfield has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Bank of America. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not 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.