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Judge OKs $8.5-billion Bank of America mortgage settlement

NEW YORK — A New York state judge has approved nearly all of an $8.5-billion settlement between Bank of America and large investors who suffered losses in mortgage-backed bonds stemming from the housing meltdown.

The settlement centers around mortgage-backed securities for which the Bank of New York Mellon Corp. acted as a trustee. Some of the claims in the 3-year-old case were not resolved, and the agreement still faces challenges despite the judge's approval.

The case's resolution would help Bank of America put baggage stemming from the financial crisis behind it. The Charlotte, N.C.-based bank has struggled to lay to rest lingering fallout from its ill-fated 2008 acquisition of Countrywide Financial Corp., the Calabasas mortgage lender. So far, BofA has faced about $50 billion in exposure stemming from Countrywide.

"We are pleased that the court approved the settlement," a BofA spokesman said. "Any outstanding issues raised in the opinion can be addressed without undue delay."

The mortgage investors in the case include investment giants BlackRock Inc., Pacific Investment Management Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

American International Group Inc. was among the investors objecting to the judge's decision.

"We are pleased that the court refused to approve the proposed settlement in its entirety and found that the trustee acted unreasonably in agreeing to compromise billions of dollars of investor claims," an AIG spokesman said in an email. "This case is very far from over because the settlement will not take effect until a variety of potential post trial motions and appeals are resolved."

Bank of America still faces steep legal bills stemming from the Countrywide case.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan earlier this week asked a judge to impose $2.1 billion in penalties on the bank in a high-profile civil fraud case.

In that case, a jury last year found the bank liable for a Countrywide program called "The Hustle." The program involved churning out risky home loans before selling them to mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The bank plans to challenge the federal government's request.

"This claim bears no relation to a limited Countrywide program that lasted several months and ended before Bank of America's acquisition of the company," the BofA spokesman said. "We will present the relevant facts in a detailed response soon."

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