Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Does Bank of America Own The Charlotte Observer?

I'd say that answer is without a doubt yes.

After all they have mega clout and own most of Charlotte's elected officials, so why not the local paper as well?

In case you missed it The Wall Street Journal ran a front page story on how, Bank of America Corp became the latest big financial firm to confess to manipulating end-of-the-quarter earnings. In a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Bank of America said it masked debt levels between 2007 and 2009 by making six trades designed to shine up the numbers on earnings day.

So the Wall Street Journal ran the story on the front page and the Observer ran the story? That's right they didn't. At least not until Sunday when they buried the story in the "F" section next to the obits.

The news was for the most part not a big surprise, shining up the coal to look like diamonds is an old accounting trick.

But the six trades amounted to as much as $10.7 billion in repos, said the WSJ. They were what are known as dollar roll trades, which see mortgage-backed securities sent to a trading partner with a simultaneous agreement to buy back similar securities soon after.

Pure smoke and mirrors to make the bank "look" more financially sound than it really is, and isn't that how we found ourselves in 2008 staring at a market heading straight to the pits of hell?

According to the Journal, Bank of America said the trades were designed in a way that the securities coming back would be similar to but not "substantially the same" as those sent out. But, said the paper, the securities that came back were "substantially the same", for instance they were the same type with the same guarantor and coupon.

The paper also noted that BofA's trades are similar to what a bankruptcy-court examiner said Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. did to make its finances look healthier -- Lehman used a repo strategy called Repo 105 to shift $50 billion off its books.

Bank of America share holders should take note, the rest of us should stop relying on the Charlotte Observer to provide impartial news. Failure of the Observer to "uncover" the story back in April when BofA admitted the fraud to the SEC clearly shows the Observer is on the BofA payroll.

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