Bank of America Background Information
Bank of America (BAC), is the largest commercial bank in the United States and the largest of its kind in the world. The company earned over $21 billion in 2006 and has a market capitalization over $200 Billion. Its namesake can trace its history to American Bank of Italy in San Francisco, circa 1900, but the company is actually the former NationsBank, headquartered in Durham NC, which acquired Bank of America in 1998 and assumed its name. BAC is currently constructing a massive 1.2 million sq. ft. headquarters in New York City.
Through mergers and acquisitions, BAC’s commercial banking unit has become the largest issuer of credit, debit and prepaid cards in the world. BAC is also the largest commercial bank in the US, with 5,700+ retail branches and over 17,000 ATM’s across the United States. The U.S. banking operations contribute more than half of BAC’s total revenues.
Banc of America Securities LLC (BAS) is the investment banking subsidiary of Bank of America. It is registered as a broker-dealer through the National Association of Securities Dealers, Inc. (NASD), and by all 50 U.S. states, and is a member of various securities exchanges including the New York Stock Exchange. The use of “Banc” in the BAS name is to indicate that it is not a bank and its accounts are not insured by the FDIC.
BAS is a full-service securities firm, which offers securities brokerage, research, trading, underwriting, financial advisory and other investment services. It claims to be the fastest growing investment bank on Wall Street, taking on such powerhouses as Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, and Lehman Brothers.
BAS’s sister company, Global Wealth and Investment Management (GWIM), is actually a combination of several firm which manages the assets of institutions and individuals. GWIM claims to be among the 10 largest U.S. wealth managers and, in July 2006, stated that its total assets under management exceeded $500 billion.
On the eve of their merger, Bank of America and FleetBoston Financial will pay a total $515 million to settle claims of “late trading” of mutual-funds as part of the largest mutual fund scandal in history. The firms have also agreed to reduce the fees investors pay by $160 million over a 5 year period, federal and New York state authorities said Monday.
Eight members of the board of directors of Nations Funds, Bank of America’s group of mutual funds, also will be required to resign their positions within a year for their alleged role in allowing the trading violations — the first sanction of its kind.
“These directors clearly failed to protect the interest of investors,” said New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. “They acknowledged the problem of market timing, but then allowed a favored client to engage in that harmful practice. The departure of these board members should sound an alarm for all those who serve in similar capacities.”
Allegations included that traders at the Bank of America’s securities subsidiary assisted select clients to illegally trade in mutual funds after-hours at stale prices, or “late trading” at the expense of ordinary investors. It was claimed that at least one client was given access to an electronic trading platform that let it trade funds as late as 8:30 p.m., yet still get the 4 p.m. price.
In addition, the two firms — which plan to merge — agreed to make certain changes in their mutual fund operations, including the board overhaul. Regulatory say the fines and sanctions are designed to increase protection of investors in the $7 trillion mutual fund industry.
Banc of America Investment Services, Inc. (BAIS) was fined $3 million fine by the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) for violating regulations designed to screen money laundering. According to the NASD, the firm not only failed to secure client information for accounts considered “high-risk,” but did not file an independent Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) despite repeated requests from its clearing firm.
According to the NASD’s report, although BAIS has anti-money laundering guidelines, the firm ignored these and never obtained the names the owners when these were opened in August 2003. The bank then authorized wire transactions involving millions of dollars across international borders from August 2003 to October 22, 2004. The NASD levied the fine in February 2007, although BAIS neither admitted or denied the findings.
A senior lawyer and member of the risk committee of BAIS separately advised the firm to secure the clients’ names, which the financial institution apparently disregarded. It also ignored multiple requests from its clearing firm to file an independent SAR report.
The $3 million fine penalty is the largest the NASD has imposed on a financial institution for such violations. But this is not the first such offense for Bank of America. In September 2006, it paid $7.5 million in settlement after a Manhattan district attorney proved South American money launderers illegally moved $3 billion via one of the bank’s Manhattan branches as a result of its lenient anti-money laundering (AML) policies.