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Businesses, Not Consumers, Feel 'Cliff' Drag: Moynihan

Javier E. David | Special to CNBC.com
Friday, 14 Dec 2012 | 10:56 AM ET
Fabrice Coffrini | AFP | Getty Images
BofA CEO on Future of Home Ownership
"We changed our position to be direct to consumers," said Brian Moynihan, Bank of America president & CEO, discussing changes in his company's mortgage business, with CNBC's Diana Olick.

The approach of the "fiscal cliff" has had more impact on businesses than consumers, Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan told CNBC on Friday.

In a wide-ranging interview, Moynihan said to CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" that the tough negotiations over how to resolve the U.S.'s long-term budget woes had not yet affected how consumers spend, even though it "has caused businesses to take less aggressive action."

Moynihan: Number 1 Thing, 'Get People Back to Work'
Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan answers questions about what his company is doing to develop a new countrywide housing policy and whether there really is a problem with the availability of credit.

The CEO added: "I think if we get this resolved soon, the consumers who have been pretty steady will continue to be there."

Among the ideas floated as part of a "fiscal cliff" fix include eliminating certain tax provisions that benefit many citizens, such as the mortgage interest rate deduction. Moynihan warned about the consequences of taking that tax break away too quickly, without adequate consideration for the consequences.

"I don't think America is ready for massive changes in the core structure of taxation overnight," he said. "I don't know if on the table or not, but I think that from general consumers you'd rather have that come up"in longer-term discussions about tax reform, rather than in a deal on the "fiscal cliff," Moynihan added.

Moynihan also said that his bank continues to participate in programs that help struggng homeowners get caught up on payments. He added that the bank is also continuing its efforts to downsize its mortgage portfolio to a more manageable level after the 2008 crisis.

In a discussion at the Brookings Institute on Friday, Moynihan directly linked the inability of home owners to pay their mortgages to the moribund jobs market.

"The reason people cant pay their mortgage loans is generally that they're unemployed, underemployed or a two-income household lost their earnings power," Moynihan said. "So I think the number one thing is to get people back to work."


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