BofA wants court to drop gov't mortgage-bond suits

Bank of America in Times Square, New York.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Bank of America asked a federal court on Friday to throw out two U.S. government lawsuits accusing the nation's second-largest bank of defrauding investors during the financial crisis.

The Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission had accused the bank in lawsuits of fraud in its sale of $850 million of residential mortgage-backed securities.

Such securities fraud cases are usually brought under the securities laws, under which authorities must prove that a defendant intended to break the law. The suits against BofA were filed in August in the bank's Charlotte, N.C., hometown.

But the Justice Department's case, in particular, relied on the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989, which the government has turned to in recent years to bring cases against banks over conduct that fueled the financial crisis.

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In one of its filings with the Charlotte federal court on Friday, Bank of America accused the government of stretching that law beyond recognition.

"(D)espite repeatedly stating that the Bank violated the securities laws—(the Justice Department) conspicuously avoids bringing any claims under the securities laws,'' the bank said in its motion.

It added that federal investigations offered no evidence that any representatives of the bank made statements they knew were false.

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Instead, the Justice Department only made vague allegations about what the bank as a whole knew, Bank of America said.

"Generalized assertions of 'corporate' or 'constructive' knowledge do not suffice as a matter of law, but that is all the complaint serves up,'' the bank's lawyers said.