Bank of America ditches tainted Countrywide name

Bank of America ditches tainted Countrywide name
NEW YORK (AP) - Bank of America Corp. has officially dropped the Countrywide Home Loans name as part of its integration of the mortgage lender, which was acquired last year.

Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America on Monday renamed its mortgage and home equity lending operations Bank of America Home Loans. The division incorporates Bank of America's previous lending businesses with those of Countrywide.

The rebranding is being completed Monday to coincide with the beginning of what is traditionally the busiest season for home buying and follows other back-office integration between the lending units, said Barbara Desoer, president of Bank of America Home Loans.

At the height of the housing market, Countrywide was the nation's largest lender and was heavily involved in subprime lending - loans given to customers with poor credit history. The housing market began to unravel in 2007 as subprime mortgage borrowers increasingly started to default, helping to spawn the credit crisis.

Loan losses have piled up for the company and lending volume is slowing, similar to what many lenders are facing during the ongoing recession and housing market downturn.

During the first quarter, the combined Bank of America and Countrywide mortgage operations funded $89 billion in mortgages and home equity loans. The pair combined to originate $315.33 billion in 2008 and $598.33 billion in 2007.

The new Bank of America Home Loans division will be based in Calabasas, Calif., which was home to Countrywide Financial Corp.

Bank of America agreed to acquire Countrywide in January 2008 in an all-stock deal worth about $4 billion at that time. The deal was valued at about $2.5 billion when the deal closed July 1 because of a drop in Bank of America's share price.