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Bank of America to cut home lending, branches

A sign marks the location of the Bank of America Corporate Center, which houses the corporate headquarters for Bank of America on July 11, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Correction: In an earlier version of this story, a Bank of America official misspoke about changes in the bank’s home mortgage business. In a subsequent statement, Bank of America said: “We are focused on serving existing customers. We will continue to write loans for customers and non-customers alike.” The text of the story has been corrected.

Kai Ryssdal: It's been a couple of months probably since the phrase "too big to fail" has been uttered into a Marketplace microphone.

We'll have to start the streak over after the broadcast today, because one of the biggest of the TBTF's -- Bank of America -- is getting smaller.

B of A announced not long ago it's gonna cut 30,000 jobs over the next couple of years.

Today, the Wall Street Journal reports the bank could be halfway to that goal by this December and all the way done a year ahead of schedule.

Our New York bureau chief Heidi Moore explains how it's gonna get there and what a leaner B of A might look like.


Heidi Moore: A year ago, Bank of America announced it would cut one of out every ten jobs. Ever since then, a sword has been hanging over the heads of its employees.

Michael Driscoll: You know, you walk out back on to that trading desk or that banking floor or anywhere else... If business levels don’t start picking up very quickly, it’s just a matter of time before there’s another round coming.

That’s Michael Driscoll, a professor at Adelphi University. He knows from working on Wall Street that profit is king.

Driscoll: They have a responsibility to shareholders to maximize shareholder value –- not maximize employee value.

Employees and shareholders alike are still paying the price for Bank of America’s enthusiasm during the housing boom. Distressed mortgages, mostly from Countrywide Financial, cost Bank of America around $8 billion a year.

Cornelius Hurley: The purchase of Countrywide was probably one of the worst business decisions ever. Having made that error, it’s probably not surprising that they’re downsizing that effort.

Cornelius Hurley is a law professor at Boston University. Bank of America is shrinking its mortgage business as part of the cuts. Housing recovery or no, Bank of America says it will continue to make loans to non-customers. But it notes: “We are focused on serving existing customers."

 

Hurley: It does come at a particularly bad time as we’re trying to get more banks lending in this area. And to the extent that this is one of the largest banks in the country, that’s not helpful.

I asked several experts whether big banks like Bank of America can really give themselves a makeover. The common answer was this: they have no other choice.

In New York, I’m Heidi Moore for Marketplace.

About the author

Heidi N. Moore is The Guardian's U.S. finance and economics editor. She was formerly the New York bureau chief and Wall Street correspondent for Marketplace.
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I cringe at the use of the word 'enthusiasm' to characterize what we all know was recklessness and irresponsibility. Please, don't let the 'too big to fail' crowd off the hook.

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