Bank of America wrongly classified $10.7bn worth of transactions

12 July 2010

Bank of America (BofA) has admitted wrongly classifying $10.7 billion worth of short-term repurchase and lending transactions as sales.

The practice occurred over a two-year period between 2007 and 2009 and helped BofA to reduce its end-of-quarter assets.

A letter written by the financial institution to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revealed what had happened, but BofA defended its conduct in the statement to the regulator, reports Bloomberg.

It said that the inaccuracies had not had a material impact and didn't "stem from any intentional misstatement of the corporation's financial statements and was not related to any fraud or deliberate error".

In March, the SEC wrote to more than 20 Wall Street firms to inquire whether they had employed similar practices to those used at Lehman Brothers before its collapse.

This included an accounting method known as Repo 105, which is said to have been used by Lehman to hide as much as $50 billion worth of debt from its balance sheet.

It worked by filing temporary repurchase agreements as permanent asset sales.

At the end of March, BofA disclosed that some agency mortgage-backed securities had been recorded as secured borrowings instead of sales, but sought to play down the matter.

Jerry Dubrowski, a spokesman for the firm, said: "The handful of transactions did not have a material impact on the company's balance sheet or earnings.

"They need to be viewed in the context of our $2.3 trillion balance sheet."

In its latest letter to the SEC, BofA stated that it has carried out an "extensive review" of its repurchase agreements and similar transactions and did not uncover any further accounting mistakes.

It stated that the errors did not affect its credit ratings, executive remuneration or the bank's compliance with capital and loan requirements.

By Gary Cooper

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