SEC grants Bank of America relief in $16 billion settlement

Ends political logjam

The record-setting settlement between Bank of America (BAC), the U.S. Department of Justice, certain federal agencies and six states to resolve claims over toxic residential mortgage-backed securities can finally proceed after the bank was granted relief by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In August, BofA agreed to a $16.65 billion settlement over toxic mortgages, collateralized debt obligations and an origination release on residential mortgage loans sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the run-up to the financial crisis.

Last month, a report surfaced that stated the settlement was “being held up” by an internal fight at the SEC over whether certain additional sanctions should be waived or not.

Earlier this month, another report stated that BofA was trying to get the SEC to waive the additional sanctions because the bank was “being unfairly treated” compared to other banks that had been given waivers in similar cases.

Now, it appears that BofA’s efforts have been successful, as the SEC has agreed to the requested waivers according to a new report from Bloomberg.

From the Bloomberg report:

In a private meeting earlier this week, SEC commissioners voted to waive most of a set of additional sanctions that could have seriously curtailed the bank’s asset management business and ability to raise money for private companies, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named because the decision isn’t yet public. Some of the relief is conditioned on the bank’s good behavior and comes with an outside monitor, the people said.

The bank also got hit with a penalty that takes away its ability to issue more shares or bonds without getting SEC approval for each deal.

According to the report, BofA was granted a full waiver on the stiffest penalty, which would have prevented the bank from managing mutual funds. 

The commissioners compromised by granting a partial waiver on the third penalty, which would have banned the bank from helping clients such as hedge funds and fast-growing startups raise money by selling private shares. The agreement allows the firm to continue the work it already does in this area for 30 months, the people said.

During that time, the bank will have to hire an independent consultant to monitor its policies, procedures and compliance. The bank will need to reapply for full relief, a request that must be signed by the chief legal officer or chief executive, the people said.

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