The Observer Advances the Ball on BoA

Charlotte’s Rick Rothacker scooped the world over the weekend with a story saying the FBI has been probing Bank of America’s misbegotten acquisition of subprime investment bank Merrill Lynch for about six months.

The big business news outlets as of this morning have not matched the story, which leaves the Observer feeling, I expect, 1) good and 2) good and lonely.

The paper smartly observes that the bank, based in the paper’s hometown, hasn’t disclosed any criminal probe yet, just generic probes by the government, including Andrew Cuomo’s noisy investigation into what was and wasn’t known about Merrill Lynch bonuses approved at the time of the merger.

As Charlotte says:

The previously disclosed investigations of the bank have appeared to largely involve civil matters that could lead to financial or regulatory penalties against the bank, or fines against some of its leaders.

It’s worth noting that BoA is issuing a nondenial:

Bank of America spokesman Jim Mahoney declined to confirm whether the FBI or Justice Department were investigating the bank, but he said there are “various government agencies that are continuing to look at the issues associated with Merrill Lynch.” He said the agencies extend beyond the SEC and the New York and N.C. attorneys general.

“We continue to believe that no action is imminent, nor that there is any basis for any action,” Mahoney said of the investigations.

We’ll keep an eye on it.

Rothacker has made helpful contributions to the story before, including this thorough legal analysis from last week.

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Dean Starkman Dean Starkman runs The Audit, CJR's business section, and is the author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, January 2014). Follow Dean on Twitter: @deanstarkman.