RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.
We haven't exactly gone back to the worst days of the financial crisis, but the housing market is going through one aftershock after another. Federal authorities are asking if banks broke the law when they submitted faulty paperwork in foreclosure cases, and the nation's largest banks face another potential problem: Many investors who put money in mortgage-backed securities are now demanding that the banks take back their bad loans.
NPR's Tamara Keith reports.
TAMARA KEITH: We all know that during the boom years, banks gave out tons of home loans, then packaged them into securities and sold them to investors. Well, some of those investors are taking a closer look at what they bought and saying hey, wait a minute.
Mr. DICK BOVE (Banking Security Analyst, Rochdale Securities): You didn't state the individual's income correctly. You overstated the value of the house, and I'm not going to keep this mortgage. I'm going to give it back to you.
KEITH: Dick Bove is a banking industry analyst at Rochdale Securities, and what he is talking about is known as a put-back.
Mr. BOVE: All these people want to send those loans back to the originator, and the originator is going to fight, you know, not to take them all. And that is where the real issue is.
KEITH: Bove and many on Wall Street seem much more nervous about this investor backlash issue than the so-called robo-signer controversy. In part, that's because these put-backs could add up to real money, real fast. Yesterday, a group of investors representing nearly $50 billion in mortgage-backed securities put Bank of America on notice that they intend to recover their losses. The securities were packed with loans from Countrywide, the notorious subprime lender later bought by Bank of America.
Kathy Patrick is a partner at Gibbs and Bruns in Houston and is representing the investors.
Ms. KATHY PATRICK (Attorney, Gibbs and Bruns): These are the kinds of securities that go into pension funds, insurance company portfolios. These are supposed to be fully secured and over-collateralized securities with the lowest possible risk of default. That's what they're supposed to be. That's what our clients are entitled to have.
KEITH: She's not naming her clients, but published reports indicate they include several giants of the investment world: Blackrock, Pimco and Metlife, among others.
Bank of America's CEO Brian Moynihan acknowledged the put-back issue on a conference call with shareholders yesterday.
Mr. BRIAN MOYNIHAN (CEO, Bank OF America): We're not going to just put this behind us to make us feel good. We're protecting your money. We're protecting the shareholders money. And we're going to make sure that we'll pay when due, but not just do a settlement to move the matter behind us.
KEITH: Figuring out which loans were written properly and which ones might have issues could ultimately require combing through hundreds of thousands of loan files. Moynihan said B of A is prepared to do that.
Mr. MOYNIHAN: If you think about people who have come back and say I bought a Vega, but I want it to be - a Chevy Vega, but I want it to be a Mercedes with a 12 cylinder, we're not putting up with that, and we will be very ardent to protect the shareholders' interests.
Ms. PATRICK: I thought that was curious.
KEITH: Again, attorney Kathy Patrick.
Ms. PATRICK: They told us we were getting a car, and they gave us a tricycle.
KEITH: Up until now, investors have had a hard time getting themselves together to go after the banks. The agreements that created the securities required a large share of the bond holders to agree to any action. Last week, another case against Countrywide was thrown out because not enough were on board. But Patrick says this group of investors more than meets the threshold.
Ms. PATRICK: Now that bond holders can see there's a path to obtain relief, this issue's going to continue to gain momentum, I think.
KEITH: Whether investors will be successful in forcing banks to buy back billions of dollars in bad loans is an open question. But the possibility that they might have to was enough to make Wall Street jittery again.
Tamara Keith, NPR News, Washington.