Questions Follow Bank of America's EquiCredit Move

By Gordon, Mark | The Florida Times Union, August 17, 2001 | Go to article overview

Questions Follow Bank of America's EquiCredit Move


Gordon, Mark, The Florida Times Union


Byline: Mark Gordon, Times-Union business writer

The first few days of Bank of America's plan to end the practice of lending home mortgage money to people with bad credit have been noisy ones, as customers, employees and industry experts all had something to say about it.

Some customers were concerned about the future of their loan payments, and who would be responsible for them. Employees wondered about how, or if, they would be able to keep their jobs. And mortgage professionals questioned whether the entire of idea of lending money to people with obvious credit risks has passed its time, especially given the current economic slowdown.

On Wednesday, the Charlotte, N.C.-based bank said it planned to sell off its divisions that specialize in these kinds of loans -- they are known as subprime, where a lender charges a higher interest rate in return for giving money to people with blemished credit. The bank decided the business was too financially risky.

Still, by selling the divisions, which operated in Jacksonville under the name EquiCredit, the bank left about 1,200 employees wondering about their jobs. Bank officials said they were confident the employees would be able to keep their jobs, either within the bank or with another company that will take over segments of EquiCredit.

Yesterday, bank spokeswoman Eloise Hale reiterated that no employees will be left jobless after the piece-by-piece deals to sell EquiCredit are finalized. EquiCredit is broken into three divisions. Two of those, covering about 500 Jacksonville employees, are in the process of being sold; Bank of America is looking for a buyer for a third unit, one with about 700 employees.

"The [employees] are going with one of the buyers or they are going to find another job within the bank," Hale said. "We are hopeful they will go with one of the buyers."

One of those buyers, Meritage Mortgage Corp. said it will make offers to about 160 employees and keep them in Jacksonville. Another buyer, Houston-based Aegis Mortgage Corp., has not made any official statements about the future of the Jacksonville staff, either publicly or within Bank of America. …

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