Sunshine State Rains All Over Bank of America


Whether it comes to being, in general, the most scorned of all banks, or the worst possible mortgage lender in particular, Bank of America usually wins -- if you can call it that -- handily. Time after time, market research surveys and government databases show that, of all the banks that people complain about, B of A always garners the lion's share of grievances.

Florida shows its disdain
Recently, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau decided to pinpoint from which states consumer complaints regarding banks were originating. Not surprisingly, since it was one of the states that suffered the most during the mortgage crisis, Florida was found to have registered nearly 11,570 gripes about banks and their service. Of those complaints, 23% were aimed squarely at Bank of America.

Other banks were criticized, too, though not to the same extent. Wells Fargo is the second-largest bank in Florida, after B of A, but it received only 14% of the complaints, and JPMorgan Chase tallied 10%. Citigroup collected a mere 6% of the total.

Customers aren't the only ones incensed over Bank of America's mortgage service. Florida's Attorney General, Pam Bondi, has sent a letter to bank officials about compliance lapses her office allegedly has seen in B of A's handling of its part of the National Mortgage Settlement -- a pact that she herself helped negotiate. She noted that her office has received nearly 300 complaints since last August, when a special liaison was set up to record problems between borrowers and the banks.

The New York AG's Office, as well, has recently announced its plan to sue B of A and Wells Fargo for violations of the $25 billion settlement, though that case is currently on hold.

Brownie points for Wells Fargo
Possibly due to this announcement from the CFPB, Wells Fargo decided last week to settle a dispute regarding its own foreclosure practices, pledging $42 million to several states where it was alleged that it did not maintain bank-owned properties in minority neighborhoods as well as it did those in white areas.

Florida, which received part of this settlement, praised Wells while noting that Bank of America and U.S. Bancorp , also named in the complaint, hadn't yet done the same. The latter bank, incidentally, registered approximately 1.2% of the complaints logged by the CFPB.

Displeasure with Bank of America is endemic
Unfortunately, negative feelings toward B of A aren't limited to surveys and consumer complaint databases. A quick trip around the Internet turned up several sites that log consumer concerns, and Bank of America rated poorly on each one.

My Bank Tracker rated the bank a "2 out of 5 marks" on every scale, based upon nearly 650 consumer reviews, and registered an overall rating of a smidge over one star -- out of five -- based upon 950 ratings. This site also noted that "hate" was the dominant emotion that consumers projected in their comments about the bank.

The granddaddy of all opinion sites, Amplicate , showed that B of A's "hate" rating was a disquieting 89%, based on more than 26,000 reviews. Wells rated 87%, albeit on a scant 2,900 comments, and JPMorgan got a hate rating of 78%, based upon about 5,800 reviews. One unsettling thing I noticed here is that complaints regarding Bank of America seemed to be decreasing from February through April, but they began to climb again in May.

Unfortunately, the efforts being made by CEO Brian Moynihan to spruce up B of A's image with consumers don't seem to be working. Despite the gains the bank has made over the last two years, I do think this issue needs to be constructively addressed if Bank of America is to regain its former glory. There's a lot of work yet to be done in this area, and B of A obviously needs to step it up.

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Fool contributor Amanda Alix has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Wells Fargo. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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