Bank of America gets $20 billion rescue

A Bank of America ATM branch in New York City

TEXT OF STORY

Scott Jagow: Sorry, but this bank situation just keeps getting more perplexing. This morning, the government said it's giving Bank of America another $20 billion. And here's why: Last fall, the Feds encouraged B of A to buy Merrill Lynch. Bank of America was doing just fine at the time. Now it's not. Today, B of A reported its first quarterly loss in 17 years, and cut its dividend to one penny. More now from Marketplace's Jeremy Hobson.


Jeremy Hobson: Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis says most of the problem lies with Merrill Lynch's fourth-quarter loss of more than $15 billion. The acquisition of Merrill came not long after B of A acquired the troubled mortgage lender Countrywide.

Lewis defended the moves in a conference call this morning:

Ken Lewis: Our acquisitions of both Countrywide and Merrill Lynch were directed at strengthening the franchise, but also contributed to marketplace stability.

Still, Christopher Whalen of Institutional Risk Analytics says Lewis may be having second thoughts about those deals today.

Christopher Lewis: If Ken Lewis had somehow held back and not bought Countrywide and not agreed to this Merrill Lynch deal, he'd be sitting pretty. BA would be the most solid stable of the three largest banks.

Bank of America's stock is up this morning, off of its lowest level in almost two decades.

In New York, I'm Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.

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