WASHINGTON - The U.S. government on Tuesday filed two civil lawsuits against Bank of America for what the Justice Department and securities regulators said was a fraud on investors involving $850 million of residential mortgage-backed securities.
The Justice Department and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed the parallel suits in U.S. District Court in Charlotte, according to the court filings.
The securities date to about January 2008, the government said, putting them just at the beginning of the global financial crisis.
Bank of America responded to the lawsuits with a statement: "These were prime mortgages sold to sophisticated investors who had ample access to the underlying data, and we will demonstrate that.
"The loans in this pool performed better than loans with similar characteristics originated and securitized at the same time by other financial institutions. We are not responsible for the housing market collapse that caused mortgage loans to default at unprecedented rates and these securities to lose value as a result."
Bank of America had warned in a securities filing on Thursday about possible new civil charges linked to a sale of one or two mortgage bonds.
The two suits accuse Bank of America of making misleading statements and failing to disclose important facts about the mortgages underlying a securitization named BOAMS 2008-A.
"These misstatements and omissions concerned the quality and safety of the mortgages collateralizing the BOAMS 2008-A securitization, how it originated those mortgages and the likelihood that the 'prime' loans would perform as expected," the Justice Department said in its statement.
A "material number" of mortgages in the pool "failed to materially adhere to Bank of America's underwriting standards," the statement said.
Bank of America has announced a series of settlements with investors and the U.S. government, including an $8.5 billion settlement with investors in mortgage-backed securities and a $1.6 billion deal with bond insurer MBIA Inc.
(Reporting by David Ingram; Additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Gary Hill)
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