BofA's Lewis lauds federal takeover

In a statement Sunday, Bank of America Corp. chief executive Ken Lewis praised the federal government's takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

“ …This action should lead to an increased availability of mortgage financing, which will help achieve stability in housing, a critical element in the health of our economy,” Lewis said.

Charlotte-based Bank of America, the nation's largest mortgage lender after buying Countrywide Financial Corp., pledged to do everything it could to support policymakers and “keep mortgage money flowing.”

Banks sell mortgages to Fannie and Freddie and are holders of the companies preferred shares. “Investors are increasingly concerned that the preferred stockholders at (Fannie and Freddie) could suffer partial or complete elimination of their interests,” analysts at investment bank Keefe Bruyette and Woods wrote in a report last month.

The report said large banks have little exposure to the shares, while some regional banks have “significant exposure.” The report listed Bank of America and Winston-Salem-based BB&T Corp. as institutions with no exposure. It did not mention Charlotte-based Wachovia Corp.

Federal banking regulators on Sunday said they had been assessing the exposure of banks and thrifts to Freddie and Fannie. “The agencies believe that, while many institutions hold common or preferred shares of these two government-sponsored enterprises, a limited number of smaller institutions have holdings that are significant compared to their capital,” the regulators said in a statement.

The Federal Reserve Board, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Office of Thrift Supervision said they plan to work with institutions as necessary to help them restore “capital-restoration plans.”