Friday, February 28, 2014

Big investors buying fewer homes in Charlotte

Wall Street-backed investors are still snatching up homes in Charlotte  but below the pace they were this time last year. And way below the pace from this past summer.

Institutional investors bought 14.9 percent of all residential properties sold in the Charlotte metro area in January, down from 16.9 percent a year ago, according to a report this week by RealtyTrac. January's figure did, however, represent a rise over December's 13.4 percent.

RealtyTrac defines an institutional investor as one that buys at least 10 properties in a calendar year. Such investors, backed by private equity, bought thousands of homes in Charlotte last year to rent them out. In cases where the properties were already rentals, the new owners have raised rents and been quick to start the eviction process for tenants who miss payments.

The year-over-year slowdown in the purchases come as home prices continue to post sizable annual gains and inventories continue to shrink. This week, the Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller home price index reported 7.8 percent appreciation in the Charlotte area in December compared with a year ago.

The slowdown has been seen nationwide, too: Institutional investors bought 5.2 percent of U.S. residential properties sales in January, down from 8.2 percent a year ago and down from 7.9 percent in December.

“Many have anticipated that the large institutional investors backed by private equity would start winding down their purchases of homes to rent, and the January sales numbers provide early evidence this is happening,” RealtyTrac's Daren Blomquist said in a statement.

In the Charlotte region, the actual number of properties bought by institutional investors totaled 318 in January versus 376 a year ago. Those figures include sales of distressed and nondistressed properties.

Compare those numbers to 687 institutional investor purchases in July, last year's peak for our region.

PNC opens public finance office in Charlotte

PNC Capital Markets has opened a public finance office in Charlotte as it seeks to compete for municipal bond business with the likes of Bank of America and Wells Fargo.

The move puts PNC investment bankers on the ground in Charlotte, which PNC sees as key to helping it grow market share in the region, particularly as it tries to capture more municipal bond business.

Municipal bonds are used to fund projects for governmental bodies and nonprofits. Such projects include the construction of schools, roads, bridges and hospitals. In Charlotte, PNC is hoping to underwrite such bonds.

PNC Capital Markets is part of Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services Group, which has bank branches in the Charlotte region. Federal market share data show PNC Bank 12th in the region for deposits.

On Friday, PNC Capital Markets said it is expanding its public finance operation across the Southeast. In addition to Charlotte, PNC has opened a public finance office in Atlanta and New York, the company said Friday.

The Charlotte office is at 4720 Piedmont Row Drive, where the bank also has headquarters for its western North Carolina operation. David Fischer will be managing director for the Charlotte office, where he will oversee the municipal bond business for the Carolinas and other parts of the Southeast.

Although PNC announced the Charlotte public finance office Friday, it actually opened Feb. 5, the bank said.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Bank of America challenges $2.1B in 'Hustle' penalties

The U.S. government's request for Bank of America to pay a $2.1 billion penalty in the so-called “Hustle” case is legally flawed, the Charlotte-based bank argued in court papers filed late Wednesday.

The government is seeking penalties against the bank after a jury found Countrywide Financial Corp. guilty of knowingly selling bad home loans to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the run-up to the housing crisis. The bank bought Countrywide in 2008.

The government initially sought $864 million in penalties. The $2.1 billion figure represent the gross revenue the bank made from the sale of the loans, according to the government’s calculations.

"In it's most dramatic departure from reality, the government would count toward Countrywide's 'gain' the principal amounts Countrywide lent to borrowers in originating the loans," the bank said in its filing.

"Countrywide did not 'gain' $2.1 billion by any stretch of the term; it simply recovered amounts that it had previously paid out," the bank said.

The bank said it suffered a net loss of at least $3 million from the poor performance of the loans.

The government's claim for $2.1 billion is "contrary to law" and unfair to the bank, the bank says.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Bank of America, Buffett reach stock deal

Warren Buffett is helping out Bank of America again -- and benefiting in the process.

The Charlotte-based bank has said it has reached a deal with the billionaire investor's company that will help the bank meet its capital requirements.

Buffett's company, Berkshire Hathaway, invested $5 billion into Bank of America in 2011, offering a lifeline as the company was ailing. At the time, the bank's stock was sinking to around $6 a share during the financial crisis.

In its latest deal with Berkshire Hathaway, Bank of America plans to count preferred shares with a carrying value of $2.9 billion as so-called Tier 1 capital, which measures how well a bank can absorb losses. Regulators closely watch banks' capital levels to evaluate their health.

Bank of America meets regulatory capital requirements already. The bank ended 2013 with $132 billion in Tier 1 common capital. It's 10 percent Tier 1 ratio exceeded the 8.5 percent minimum regulators will require in 2019.

Under the deal, Berkshire Hathaway also will give up a dividend provision that gives the right to recover any missed payments.

Berkshire Hathaway also benefits from the deal, as the bank would agree to wait at least five years before redeeming the preferred stock.

The plan needs approval from the bank's shareholders in May.

Bank of America disclosed the proposal in a filing this week with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Wells Fargo hires 'big data' chief

Wells Fargo said Tuesday it has hired its first ever chief data officer, a move designed to help the bank make better use of "big data."

The chief, A. Charles Thomas, will be based in San Francisco, where Wells Fargo is headquartered. He will oversee the bank's data strategy and determine ways data can be used to improve risk management and customer experience, Wells Fargo said. He starts the new job in March.

Thomas and his staff will analyze how customers interact with the bank at its branches and automated teller machines and through online and mobile banking platforms, the bank said. Spokesman Josh Dunn said in an email that such research will help the bank identify ways to improve its services, help customers find products and identify potentially fraudulent behavior.

Banks, like other companies, are becoming more interested in capitalizing on the emerging field of big data, a term that can apply to large sets of information businesses have about their customers. A bank might be able to use data on a customer's branch habits to, say, improve their ATM experience.

"This is an important move for us in the tech space and a role that is maturing across industries," Dunn said.

Bank of America has used big data collected on some of its call-center employees to improve productivity. Through analyzing data captured through sensors the bank asked the employees to wear, the bank learned that the most productive workers spoke frequently to colleagues. That led the bank to schedule group breaks instead of solo ones.

Welch Hornsby Investment Advisors expands to Charlotte

Welch Hornsby Investment Advisors said Tuesday it is expanding to Charlotte, opening an office in SouthPark at 600 Fairview Road.

The Montgomery, Ala.-based company provides wealth-management services to high-net-worth clients. It also manages assets for endowments and foundations and supervises retirement assets.

The Charlotte office is the company's third. Its other two offices are in Alabama.

“A presence in Charlotte establishes us in this important Southeastern hub and fits our strategy of providing a solid base for future expansion in the region," President and CEO Edward Welch said in a statement.

The company said it has hired Brandy Hydrick to manage the Charlotte office, where she will also serve as the company's head of financial planning.

Hydrick ran her own independent financial planning firm in Charlotte before being recruited by Welch Hornsby to open the Charlotte office, the company said.

The company said it is still determining how many employees will work in the Charlotte office.

Welch Hornsby said it serves clients in 12 states across the Southeast.

Monday, February 24, 2014

SEC rejects request for BofA, Wells to make risk disclosures

A regulator has rejected shareholder proposals from New York's comptroller that sought to make Bank of America and Wells Fargo disclose which employees could expose them to major losses because of their bonus incentives, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, sought to include the resolutions in the banks' proxy statements.

DiNapoli is trustee of New York's $173 billion pension fund, which has $1.2 billion in investments in the banks, according to a story on the Boston Herald's website. DiNapoli has said he is concerned about a "high risk, high rewards" approach to investing without fully assessing possible downsides.

"Unless banks shed more daylight on their incentive-based pay practices, shareholders will continue to face unnecessary risks," he said Monday. "The SEC should reconsider its decision and review the facts of our request."

The Securities and Exchange Commission rejected the proposals, which would have asked the banks' boards to identify employees who could expose them "to possible material losses."

Charlotte private equity firms 'swap' positions in company

Charlotte's Frontier Capital announced Monday that it has exited its five-plus-year investment in a Birmingham software-as-a-service company. Stepping in: Charlotte-based Pamlico Capital.

Frontier made a $10 million equity investment in Daxko Inc. in December 2008. Daxko provides software services to nonprofits.

The company used the money to expand its sales, marketing and product development, and now supports half of the YMCAs in the U.S., along with other groups. Daxko had a "record" 2013, the company said.

Frontier exited the investment Friday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

But Charlotte private equity firm Pamlico Capital said Monday that it has taken a controlling stake in Daxko. The size of the investment was not disclosed. It's the third deal in Pamlico's third fund, which as $650 million in commitments.

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Park Sterling hires chief marketing officer in Richmond

Charlotte-based Park Sterling Bank said Friday that it's hired a chief marketing officer and significantly expanded its wealth management team, primarily in Richmond.

It's the next step in Park Sterling's rapid build-up in Virginia. Last month, the bank formed a commercial banking team in Richmond and brought on two new business line heads. The bankers all came from the recently sold StellarOne Bank, which was based in the city.

Park Sterling said Friday that Angela Ross will join the bank as chief marketing officer in Richmond after serving as chief branding officer at StellarOne.

George Meyls comes to Park Sterling as head of private banking, a new role for the bank. He'll oversee that line of business across the company and remain in Virginia. He'll be joined Russell Carter, who will be a trust advisor.

Alan Smith is also joining Park Sterling as a trust advisor, based in Charlotte. He had most recently been in wealth management at PNC, and previously worked at Bank of America.

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Bank of America overhauling look of email alerts

Bank of America said it is changing the appearance of the email alerts it sends online-banking customers.

The Charlotte-based bank has already begun alerting customers to the coming changes. Among other things, the bank said the emails will have "clear" subject lines to help customers prioritize their inboxes.

In an email to customers, the bank said the new alerts will also have a simplified format that's easy to scan as well as "step-by-step" details that tell customers what they may need to do regarding their accounts and how to do it.

A bank spokeswoman told the Observer Thursday that the changes are coming in the next few weeks.

Bank of America had the best score among other banks in an online banking scorecard released in December. The scorecard, by firm Keynote Systems, measured sites' ease of use, quality and availability and functionality, among other things.  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Charlotte Metro Credit Union opening 'branch' at West Meck

Charlotte Metro Credit Union said Tuesday that it is opening an in-school branch at West Mecklenburg High this week.

A dozen student volunteers have undergone training and will man the office each Thursday during lunch time. Students will be able to open an account and make deposits, but not withdrawals. They'll get a debit card and lessons on how to manage their finances.

“Hawks Metro Credit Union” will operate as an extension of a traditional CMCU branch, and money will be moved to the main branch at the end of each day.

“With this hands-on project, and through the aid of teachers, students involved as staff and customers can learn about the basics of financial decision-making and develop good, sustainable spending habits,” CMCU employee and project adviser Shirley Floyd said.

This is the third in-school branch Charlotte Metro Credit Union has opened at Charlotte high schools. The program began in 2009 at Garinger High. The credit union later opened a branch at Harding High in 2011.

In-school branchers are fairly common around the country, and traditionally run by credit unions and community banks as a way to educate kids about financial topics. The Credit Union National Association lists more than 300 in-school bank branches across the country, including two in North Carolina (in Winston-Salem and Reidsville).

Some larger banks run limited in-school programs as well. PNC Bank has programs at Reedy Creek Elementary School and Pinewood Elementary School in the Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools system.

Wells Fargo has operated an in-school branch at an Alaskan high school for years, inherited when it acquired the National Bank of Alaska. SunTrust has a weekly banking day at an elementary school in Atlanta.

Regulators generally look favorably on these arrangements. On occasion, consumer groups have criticized them for marketing individual brands to children.

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Park Sterling selects site for Virginia operation

Charlotte-based Park Sterling Bank has picked a site for its new Virginia operation and plans to apply this week to open its first branch in the state, CEO Jim Cherry said Tuesday.

Cherry said the bank will move into roughly 7,500 square feet of office space near Stony Point Fashion Park mall in Richmond. That's where the bank will open a commercial loan production office that will later be turned into a full-service branch.

Last month, the bank announced that it was entering the Virginia market. At the time, it said it had hired five bankers from Charlottesville, Va.-based StellarOne Bank.

Park Sterling plans to make its Richmond operation a major hub for the bank. Its head of mortgage banking and head of wealth management will be based in Richmond. Those two positions are new ones for the bank.

Cherry said the initial branch will be in the same building as the loan production operation and, therefore, will not have a drive-up teller lane. Approvals to open that branch could take approximately 90 days, he said.

The bank also plans to open a more traditional, standalone retail branch in Virginia at some point, he said.

On Tuesday or Wednesday, Park Sterling plans to announce more hires for the Richmond operation, Cherry said.

Paragon Bank opens new Charlotte office

Paragon Bank said it will open its new Charlotte office at 6337 Morrison Blvd. on Tuesday.

The new home replaces Paragon's old location at Piedmont Town Center, which is less than a mile away. The move also keeps Paragon in SouthPark and gives it its own standalone building.

The Morrison Boulevard building is 16,427 square feet, about double the size of the bank's old space.

In December, Raleigh-based Paragon "refreshed" its brand, rolling out a new logo and website as part of a strategy to draw more attention to its private-banking services. That move came after the 15-year-old bank last year changed its name from Paragon Commercial Bank in an effort to make potential customers think of it as more than just a lender to businesses.

“We are very excited about this relocation because it reinforces the efforts we have made to refresh our entire brand,” Phil Jurney, the bank's Charlotte market president, said in a statement. “This move allows Paragon Bank to grow closer to our clients by allowing us to work in a completely new space, bringing in new ideas, new clients and new solutions.”

Jurney has said the bank will have room for growth in its new, two-story space. Paragon bought the property for $4.2 million and renovated it last year. The building once housed UBS Financial Services.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Charlotte capital manager has registration revoked

The U.S. Commodities Futures Trading Commission said Friday that it has revoked the registration of Charlotte-based Prestige Capital Advisers.

Its owner, Toby D. Hunter of Waxhaw, has been accused of bringing in $4.7 million to invest in commodities and futures, then posting false results and returns for current customers and future investors to see.

Friday's announcement is the latest step in the winding legal process that began in 2011, when he was originally charged in federal court in Charlotte.

In July 2013, Hunter was ordered to pay $11.7 million in restitution and fines. The next month, the CFTC said it intended to revoke the firm's registration.

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Report: Wells Fargo tiptoeing back into subprime home loans

Wells Fargo, the largest U.S. mortgage lender, is edging back into subprime home loans, Reuters reported Friday.

The move comes at a time when the bank is looking to stem declining revenue as its mortgage lending plunges, in large part because of slowdown in the refinancing of home loans. Rising interest rates have led to a drop in refinancing volume at Wells Fargo and other lenders.

According to Reuters, San Francisco-based Wells Fargo feels comfortable lending to some borrowers who pose higher credit risks now that the bank has worked through a lot of its financial crisis-era mortgage problems.

After the crisis, which was driven by a bust in the subprime mortgage industry, banks have steered clear of giving home loans to consumers seen as posing high credit risks.

But, Reuters says:

Any loosening of credit standards could boost housing demand from borrowers who have been forced to sit out the recovery in home prices in the past couple of years, but could also stoke fears that U.S. lenders will make the same mistakes that had triggered the crisis.

Bank of America collection calls netting people $40

If you got collection calls on your cell phone from Bank of America in the last few years, you could be in line for $40.

The Charlotte bank agreed to a $32 million settlement in September, resolving several class action lawsuits alleging Bank of America illegally used robocall systems to contact credit card and mortgage customers on their cell phones. A judge approved the deal in December. Bank of Amerca denies it did anything wrong but says it decided to settle to avoid costly litigation.

Attorneys in the Bank of America case are now looking for people to sign up to be part of the settlement. The deadline to file a claim is next month. People will get between $20 and $40, depending on how many file claims.

It's the latest in a wave of legal actions related to Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The law restricts businesses from using automatic dialers to call cell phones unless they have specific permission to do so. Companies from Sallie Mae to Papa John's have all settled claims in the last few years.

Last week, a Davidson man sued Wells Fargo claiming the bank repeatedly called his cell phone in error despite being asked to stop.

Consumer advocates are happy about the rise in litigation, saying the law is meant not just to keep people from losing cell minutes, but also to keep from repeated daily interruptions, the Wall Street Journal reported. Companies, though, say that auto-dialers are the only efficient way to reach people and point out that a lot of people only have cell phones these days.

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Some bank branches to reopen Friday

After being closed Thursday because of a major winter storm, some bank branches in the Charlotte region are expected to reopen Friday.

Spokespeople for Bank of America, PNC Financial Services Group and Wells Fargo said their branches will be reopened by noon.

Fifth Third Bank said it will open its North Carolina branches at 11 a.m.

It was not immediately clear as to what other banks' plans are. 

Check back for more updates as we get them.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Charlotte-area bank branches closed because of snow

Bank branches across the Charlotte area were closed Thursday because of heavy snowfall in the region, and it was unclear whether they will reopen Friday.

Bank of America, BB&T, PNC Financial Services Group and Wells Fargo said their branches were closed Thursday.

Even smaller banks, like Paragon Bank, were not open in Charlotte.

Officials from all of those banks said decisions about whether to open tomorrow had not been made.

Several inches of snow fell across the area Wednesday, followed by more snow Thursday morning. 

Check back throughout the day for more information on bank closures.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

PNC says business is improving in the Southeast

PNC is coming up on the two-year anniversary of its entry into the Charlotte area and the South -- and executives are now touting double-digit growth in its new markets.

The Pittsburgh bank entered the region through its acquisition of RBC Bank. It gave PNC its first toe-hold in cities like Charlotte, Raleigh and Atlanta.

Chief Financial Officer Robert Reilly told investors at the Credit Suisse financial services conference this week that PNC now has a full corporate banking and asset management staff in those markets. The Carolinas have had particular strength in those areas, and the western North Carolina region that includes Charlotte has had strong new client growth, Reilly said.

A year ago in a similar setting, executives admitted that performance in its new Southern markets was lagging behind its more established regions. CEO Bill Demchak described the bank's hopes for the markets as a "long-term game" that might not be complete in a few years time. Bankers there were spending their time getting rid of non-core business and real estate it didn't want and bringing in customers that fit their profile.

The Southeast markets aren't yet caught up, Reilly said. But "the encouraging part is that the Southeast businesses across all lines of business are seeing terrific growth rates," he said, according to a Bloomberg transcript. "So in some respects, they are outperforming the legacy markets, but is still a small component piece."

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Demographics making North Carolina attractive to banks

Expected rapid population increases in several parts of North Carolina are making the state very attractive to the banking industry, a new report from SNL Financial says.

Four of the top 10 metro areas with the strongest anticipated growth are in North Carolina or include parts of the state, according to the research firm's data.

Jacksonville and Dunn take the second and third spots. Raleigh comes in at No. 8, and the Myrtle Beach metro area that includes much of Brunswick County nabs the last spot on the list. All of them are projected to have population increases exceeding 10 percent by 2018.

Who stands to benefit? Wells Fargo, Bank of America and BB&T, SNL says. Those three banks have the most deposits and branches in the high-growth areas.

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

BofA could pay $7.4B in FHFA dispute, according to one estimate

Bank of America might end up paying more than $7 billion to end a legal dispute with the Federal Housing Finance Agency, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

The FHFA, which oversees mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, sued Bank of America and other lenders in 2011 over the sale of mortgage-backed securities. The bank's Countrywide and Merrill Lynch units were among those sued by the FHFA.

Seven settlements have been reached, including with Ally Financial, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase & Co. A $1.25 billion settlement with Morgan Stanley was announced last week.

Of the banks that have recently settled, the amounts equate to roughly 12 to 13 percent of the original principal balance of securities sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, The Wall Street Journal said. Based on those percentages, Bank of America's payout to resolve the lawsuits, including those stemming from Merrill Lynch and Countrywide, would total about $7.4 billion, the newspaper estimated.

In October, Fitch Ratings estimated Bank of America's payout at $5 billion to $8 billion should the bank decide to settle.

A bank spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment.

Last month, the FHFA said it had recovered nearly $8 billion in settlements related to the 2011 lawsuits, which alleged securities law violations and, in some cases, fraud.

Mid-size bank M&A largely on hold

BB&T CEO Kelly King says his bank has free capital and wants to buy another bank. But he told an audience of investors that merger and acquisition activity among banks like is largely on hold.

Two reasons why: Regulators are still trying to figure out what size they want banks to be, King said, and CEOs are wary of taking on the legal risk of another institution.

"M&A is just really hard for all of us to figure out right now," King told the Credit Suisse investor conference in Boca Raton, Fla.

BB&T has about $180 billion in assets, placing it solidly in a class of banks sometimes called "super regionals." This category also includes the likes of PNC, SunTrust and Fifth Third.

King said he doesn't believe regulators have a problem with a bank that's $300 billion to $400 billion in assets, and said that gives BB&T an opportunity. Presumably a bank BB&T's size could double in size.

King said things might pick up more in a year or so once regulators are more clear about what they're looking for.

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Bankers: How are bonuses this year?

A quick look at local wage data proves how important bonus season is to the Charlotte economy. It's also an important indicator of the health of the city's two big banks.

That's why we're trying to get a sense of how bonus season is treating local bankers this year.

Email Andrew Dunn at or click here if you'd like to help out. Your name wouldn't be shared.

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Friday, February 7, 2014

CommunityOne gets closer to profitability in 2013

Charlotte-based CommunityOne bank inched closer to profitability in 2013, reporting Friday a net loss of $1.5 million for the year. That's up from a $40 million loss the year before.

CommunityOne earned $2.3 million in the fourth quarter, reversing a $6.3 million loss from the same time period a year ago. It was the second profitable quarter in a row for the bank. In the third quarter, CommunityOne recorded its first quarter of profitability since 2008.

The bank has been in rebuilding mode since 2011, when Bank of Granite and CommunityOne were forced together as each were in danger of failing. The two merged as part of a $310 million recapitalization, and two former First Union executives were brought in to run the bank.

The past year was an eventful one in the bank's recovery. The FDIC lifted its consent order against Bank of Granite in March, and the OCC followed suit with CommunityOne's order in June. That allowed the merger of the two to be finalized. Federal prosecutors in Charlotte also formally dismissed charges stemming from an anti-money-laundering investigation. The bank had been in a deferred prosecution agreement.

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Regulator to halt Wells Fargo sale of mortgage-servicing rights

Wells Fargo's sale of residential-mortgage servicing rights to Atlanta's Ocwen Financial Corp. is in limbo, after a New York State regulator has indefinitely halted the $2.7 billion deal, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, citing a person familiar with the matter.

The person said the office of Benjamin Lawsky, superintendent of New York's financial services department, has concerns over Ocwen's ability to take on more loans. Lawsky supervises insurance companies in the state and all banks chartered by the state.

The Ocwen deal, announced last month, calls for San Francisco-basedWells Fargo to sell servicing rights on $39 billion in loans. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Ocwen is the largest nonbank mortgage loan-servicer in the U.S.

In December, Ocwen entered into a $2.1 billion settlement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and 49 states and the District of Columbia to resolve allegations that it mistreated homeowners whose mortgages it serviced. According to the allegations, the company illegally foreclosed on homes, charged homeowners unauthorized fees and deceived them about loan modifications.

The Ocwen deal comes after Wells Fargo Chief Financial Officer Tim Sloan said in March that Wells Fargo might want to "test" the sale of its mortgage-servicing rights.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Bank of America's $8.5 billion settlement not a done deal

Bank of America's $8.5 billion settlement with investors who bought bad mortgage securities is not a done deal quite yet. A judge has delayed a final judgement on the accord in order to consider more appeals and legal filings in the case, Reuters reports.

Last week, a different New York judge had given preliminary approval to the settlement first announced back in 2011. That same say, lawyers representing insurer American International Group said they planned to appeal.

Analysts view the settlement as an important indicator of the Charlotte bank's legal liability going forward. Bank of America has already paid about $60 billion in legal costs since the financial crisis, and this agreement represented one of the biggest outstanding issues the bank faced.

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

BofA looks to hire 200 more small-business bankers

Bank of America on Tuesday said it plans to hire more than 200 small-business bankers this year as it sees an increase in loans to such businesses.

The bank said Tuesday it extended $10.9 billion in new loans to small businesses last year, a 26 percent increase over 2012. Originations to small businesses have risen on a year-over-year basis for 36 months in a row, the bank said.

In a statement, Anna Colton, national sales executive of small-business banking for Bank of America, pointed to a study by the bank last fall that said small-business owners who meet with their banker at least three times a year are more optimistic that their revenues will increase over the next 12 months.

The hires come as Bank of America and other big U.S. banks are under pressure to increase profits at a time of sluggish revenue gains. Low interest rates and slow loan growth are among factors hindering banks' abilities to boost revenue, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a bank regulator, said in a recent report.

Banks have shed personnel and trimmed branches to bring help expenses down. Bank of America cut 25,073 jobs last year, bringing its payroll to 242,117 as of the end of December, according to a securities filing.

Lending to small businesses remains challenging. Optimism among small businesses remains below prerecession levels, according to survey findings released last month by the National Federation of Independent Business. The group’s chief economist said that while some segments of the economy are showing improvement, such as manufacturing and construction, consumer spending has lagged.

It is not known how many of the 200 hires will be made in Charlotte, where the bank is headquartered. The bank said it has not determined the markets where it will make the hires. In a press release, the bank said the additional bankers are planned for its "key" markets.

The bank said it has approximately 25 small-business bankers in North Carolina, including 10 in the Charlotte area. In South Carolina, the count is about 10.

Bank of America began hiring small-business bankers after it created the position in 2010. So far, the bank has hired 1,000 such bankers across the country. Some of the bankers visit potential customers at their offices. Others are stationed in branches, where CEO Brian Moynihan has been adding specialists, such as those in mortgage lending.

The bank's small-business group falls under its consumer and business banking division, which is based in Charlotte. Robb Hilson, who heads the small-business group, is based in Miami.

First South Bank opens Charlotte leasing production office

Washington, N.C.-based First South Bank has made its first move into Charlotte by opening a leasing production office near Northlake Mall.

First South Leasing primarily offers equipment sellers a way to finance purchases, or gives businesses a way to free up cash by leasing equipment instead of taking out a loan to buy it.

The office's first leasing consultant, Sharon Barrett, had spent 25 years with Springs Leasing Corp. in Charlotte. That company closed operations at the end of last year.

Barrett told the Observer that First South hopes the office will get enough business to warrant bringing in more people within  a few years. Ultimately, First South also hopes to open a full-service branch in Charlotte.

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BofA, Bono raise $3 million for AIDS-fighting fund

The final tally is in: Bank of America's partnership with U2 and its iconic frontman Bono raised $3 million for an AIDS-fighting fund.

The band debuted a new single, "Invisible," during a Super Bowl ad that ran in the first quarter of the game. At the end of the spot, Bank of America announced that the song would be available for free download on iTunes, and the Charlotte bank would give $1 to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for each download. It was a joint campaign with RED, Bono's organization that helps raise money for the fund.

In the first hour, more than a million people downloaded the song. The figure tripled by Monday night, when the campaign ended.

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Merrill Lynch getting more business from BofA clients

As Bank of America focuses on referring clients from one division to the others, Merrill Lynch has announced that it opened more retirement plan accounts with the bank's corporate clients than it did the year before. These clients accounted for $14 billion in new assets, 70 percent of all the new benefit plans at the bank.

CHARLOTTE SPENDING FASTER THAN POPULATION IS GROWING: The Queen City is a poster child for a new budget challenge facing municipalities across the country, economists from Wells Fargo say in a report Monday. While city revenue is starting to grow again after the recession, the growth in the property tax base is slower now. Wells calls its a structural shift that will limit how much the city is able to spend in the coming years.

BANK OF AMERICA PROMISES TO HIRE LONG-TERM UNEMPLOYED: Brian Moynihan was one of a number of CEOs to meet with President Obama to pledge to come up with programs to hire people who have been out of work for an extended period, Bloomberg reports.

BANK OF THE CAROLINAS LOSES MONEY: The Mocksville bank lost $764,000 in the fourth quarter and $1.3 million over the course of 2013. It didn't help that the bank wasn't able to recover any loan loss reserves like it did the year before.

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Monday, February 3, 2014

Charlotte Metro Credit Union runs two Super Bowl ads

Charlotte Metro Credit Union kept up its tradition of advertising during the Super Bowl. This year, they went with funny ads again after a brief hiatus. The theme in 2014: mobile check deposit and person-to-person money transfer. Here they are below.

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Bank of America ad raises $2 million and counting

Bank of America is still getting a lot of talk on social media after unveiling its campaign to raise money to fight AIDS during the first quarter of last night's Super Bowl.

And it's a decent bit of money, too -- $2 million and counting as of Monday morning. (UPDATE: By afternoon, it hit $2.5 million).

The Charlotte bank announced at the economic forum in Davos that it would partner with U2 frontman Bono and the RED organization to raise money for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The Irish band made a new single available for free on iTunes, and for every download, Bank of America would give a dollar to the fund.

RED said Monday morning on Twitter that it had crossed $2 million. The campaign lasts through the end of the day.

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Wells Fargo has world's most valuable bank brand

The stagecoach is apparently worth its weight in gold. Wells Fargo has been named the most valuable bank brand in the world, according to a ranking from Brand Finance.

The San Francisco bank's branding is worth more than $30 billion, the consulting firm estimated. That's up more than 16 percent from last year as loose monetary policy aided markets and the economy. Wells also has a more favorable reputation compared to peers, Brand Finance notes. Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, in particular, have felt the weight of massive legal settlements and investigations over the past few years.

British banking giant HSBC came in second in the world rankings, with a brand value of $26.9 billion. Bank of America was close behind at $26.7 billion. The Charlotte bank had one of the largest jumps in brand value in the past year as its net income and stock price increased. Bank of America finished 2013 with the most profitable year it's had since the financial crisis.

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