Of eggs, banks and FDIC rules

Some of the folks in this story appear to have their brains scrambled. And the man at the center of it has decided not to go over easy.

Yeah, it’s sort of about eggs, but mostly it’s about governmental and corporate bureaucracy combining to fry an individual. (Couldn’t resist one more.)

Paul Boudwin was fired from his job as an investment banker with Bank of America in Houston because of a 14-year-old mix-up at a Denny’s. He’s suing the bank.

In a nutshell (eggshell?), here’s his story, via the lawsuit (via the Houston Chronicle): While a student at Arizona State, Boudwin and a friend walked out of a Denny’s with each believing the other had paid the check. The manager called police, and they were arrested. However, Boudwin paid for his omelet and a $50 fine and a charge against him was dismissed. Boudwin revealed this information to Bank of America when he was hired in 2006.

Fast forward to 2011, and the bank was going over employment records to comply with new federal regulations in the wake of various mortgage misdeeds among the nation’s lenders. No one with a criminal background related to dishonesty is supposed to be working for a financial institution. Bank of America decided Boudwin had a “disqualifying conviction.”

Boudwin supplied documents showing the charge had been dropped. OK, the bank said, we’ll apply to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. for a waiver on your behalf. But in the meantime, you have to go on an unpaid leave of absence.

However, by February, Bank of America told Boudwin it was tired of waiting for the FDIC waiver and it fired him. Two weeks later, the waiver came through, but the bank wouldn’t hire him back. He would have to apply for his old job as if he were new — meaning no seniority, no back pay, no bonus.

So now he’s suing Bank of America.

Boudwin’s is at least the second such instance to be reported recently. This summer, Richard Eggers was fired by Wells Fargo because nearly 50 years ago he had used a cardboard slug in a laundry machine. Eggers eventually was offered his job back, but declined the offer when the bank wouldn’t agree to a set of requests for rules that would apply to others who similarly lose their jobs with Wells Fargo.

(H/T to fark.com.)

USDA loan program – Clever way to finance, or future problem?

Just read an article in the most recent Business Week edition about home loans backed by the US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA Home Loans: Subprime Redux?). Gist of the article is that the loan program offers $0 down and 100% financing, conditions awfully similar to those subprime loans that have wreaked so much havoc.

A quick look at eligible areas for the program on the USDA website shows that there are some prime areas in the state. Links to search for eligible areas are on the left side.

Obviously, most of the urban areas in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County and others are ineligible but there are pockets that might work.

Is this a viable tool to get people in homes? Or, will it be another program that will cause headaches down the road?

FDIC’s foreclosure help

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. on Wednesday released an online toolkit aimed at arming borrowers, banks and others with information to prevent unnecessary foreclosures as well as foreclosure rescue scams.

The kit includes:

  • Is Foreclosure Knocking at Your Door? brochure (available online and in print), which encourages consumers facing financing difficulties to contact their servicer, apply for a loan modification, and talk to a counselor.
  • Beware of Foreclosure Rescue Scams brochure (available online and in print), which provides information on common scams, tips for detecting fraudulent deals, and resources for reporting criminal activity.
  • Spring 2009 edition of FDIC Consumer News, which features advice for consumers on avoiding foreclosure rescue and loan modification schemes.

The tool kit and other helpful resources are available on the FDIC’s foreclosure prevention Web page at www.fdic.gov/foreclosureprevention.

Stifel warns competition could hurt LendingTree’s value

Stifel Nicolaus is downgrading the value of LendingTree, the online service that puts people in touch with a network of lenders, because of potential competition from Google. Within the next few weeks, Google plans to launch a service that will compete directly with Tree.com’s LendingTree Exchange business.

The competition could seriously impact LendingTree’s earnings, Stifel said.

“We project that the Exchanges segment of LendingTree will represent about one-third of Tree.com’s total revenue in 2009 and a higher percentage of gross profit,” the report by analyst George I. Askew’s team said. “If Google launches a competing product, we believe LendingTree may face a decline in consumer loan requests, fewer lenders in its Exchange, higher marketing costs and lower lead pricing.”

LendingTree has also filed a law suit this week against Mortech Inc., claiming the mortgage technology provider violated its contract with LendingTree by partnering with Google in the endeavor.

Shares of Tree.com fell more than 8 percent by mid-morning.

What should Bill Miller do?

The federal government has decided to rescue Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to help get the mortgage giants — and the U.S. economy — out of a pickle.

While that might have been good news to Wall Street and stock markets around the world, local investment manager Legg Mason Inc. took yet another hit in an already difficult year.

In particular, Bill Miller, the famed fund manager behind Legg Mason Capital Management, will suffer from this move. Miller has been adding steadily to his stockpile of shares in Freddie Mac this year, at various price points (about 35 million shares when the price was in the teens this spring, and another 30 million this summer when the price was under $10). He had amassed 80 million shares as of July 31, or 12.4 percent of shares, making LMCM the largest shareholder of Freddie stock.

Analysts think Freddie’s stock will soon be worth pennies – the share price was 90 cents at 1 p.m., down $4.20 or 82 percent today. So what should Miller do with those 80 million shares of Freddie stock? Sit around and hope for a miracle or try to find someone who’s daring enough to spend $80 million on the hopes of a turnaround?

What would you do in his shoes?

DANIELLE ULMAN, Business Writer