Wall Street Journal
JANUARY 13, 2012
Bank of America Ponders Retreat by Dan Fitzpatrick and Joann S. Lublin
Bank of America
Corp. has told U.S. regulators that it is willing to retreat from some parts of the country if its
financial problems deepen, according to people familiar with the situation.
Bank of America Chief Executive Brian Moynihan is under pressure to improve the bank's performance.
Executives at the Charlotte, N.C., financial giant put the potential move on a list of emergency scenarios
submitted to the Federal Reserve last year, these people said. While people close to Bank of America insist that
no retreat is imminent, even the possibility of selling branches and losing customers it spent huge sums to lure
underscores the depth of its problems.
WSJ's Andrew Dowell has details of a proposal by Bank of America to retreat from parts of the U.S. if its
financial troubles continue.
Among the 7,400 U.S. banks and savings institutions, Bank of America,
J.P. Morgan Chase
& Co. and
& Co. are the only coast-to-coast giants. For the past 20 years, Bank of America and predecessor
NationsBank Corp. relentlessly acquired other financial institutions in a form of manifest destiny that shook the
U.S. banking industry. The 1998 takeover of BankAmerica Corp., of San Francisco, and 2004 purchase of
FleetBoston Financial Corp., Boston, left the combined bank with sizable muscle in nearly every large
metropolitan area in the country.
Over the course of its long expansion, Bank of America, currently the country's second-largest bank by assets,
pushed its way into every nook and cranny of the financial system. But in doing so the bank left itself more
exposed than any major bank to the severe economic downturn of 2008-2009, the weak recovery since and a
litany of mortgage-related lawsuits.
Bank of America stumbled at a time when the entire U.S. banking industry was going through its worst crisis
since the 1930s, prompting a federal bailout of many of the nation's largest financial institutions. Still, some of
Bank of America's worst wounds, particularly its 2008 purchase of Countrywide Financial Corp., were self-
Its share price has tumbled 55% in the past year, the worst performance of any major U.S. bank. In the third
quarter, J.P. Morgan leapfrogged Bank of America to become the biggest U.S. bank by assets.
Bank of America Chief Executive
put a possible geographic retrenchment on the list submitted
in the middle of last year to Fed officials. Also on the list is a potential sale of a separate class of shares tied to
the performance of Merrill Lynch & Co., the securities firm owned by Bank of America, according to people
familiar with the matter. Merrill was sinking when Bank of America swooped in to buy the firm in 2008, but has
since turned itself around. The Fed, which acts as the company's primary regulator, asked for documentation
about contingency plans last year in response to uncertainty about a U.S. recovery and the downward swing in