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Rating Action:

Moody's affirms Bank of America's ratings, outlook remains stable

18 Nov 2020

New York, November 18, 2020 -- Moody's Investors Service, ("Moody's") has affirmed the long-term debt and deposit ratings, counterparty risk ratings and counterparty risk assessments of Bank of America Corporation (BAC, senior debt at A2) and certain subsidiaries, as well as the baseline credit assessment (BCA) of its principal bank subsidiary, Bank of America, N.A. (BANA, deposits at Aa2 and BCA of a3). Moody's also affirmed all Prime-1 short-term ratings for BAC and its rated subsidiaries. All rating outlooks are stable. A complete list of affected ratings and entities can be found at the end of this press release.

RATINGS RATIONALE

The affirmation reflects BAC's conservative risk appetite and continued robust funding and liquidity profile. The affirmation also incorporates Moody's expectation that while BAC's profitability has been adversely affected by the low interest rate environment, the bank's ongoing expense discipline, continued investments in technology, and diversified business mix should all continue to support a resilient earnings profile.

Moody's noted that BAC continues to demonstrate greater resiliency under the Federal Reserve's stress tests than most peers, a cautious approach to loan growth, strict limits on concentrations, and a primary focus on better serving existing customers rather than aggressively seeking out new (and possibly riskier) customers. These point to a more conservative risk appetite than found at many of BAC's peers. The bank also recently saw a significant reduction in its risk-weighted assets (RWAs) under the advanced approaches for operational risk after the Federal Reserve approved its use of an updated model for calculating such RWAs. Moody's believes this reflects the Federal Reserve's increased comfort with BAC's ability to manage and control its operational risk, another indicator of the bank's more conservative risk profile. Given the importance placed on this by the bank's board of directors and senior management, Moody's expect BAC's conservative risk profile will be sustained going forward, despite occasional earnings pressures.

The rating agency also noted that since the start of the coronavirus pandemic BAC's capital position has strengthened, driven by retained earnings aided by a suspension of share buybacks and a relatively low dividend payout. The reduction in operational risk RWAs also boosted the bank's advanced approaches regulatory capital ratio, bringing it more in line with peers. Nonetheless, the bank's more conservative risk profile has led to capital requirements below those of many of its peers, so the rating agency expects that once regulatory restrictions on share buybacks are lifted, the bank will seek to boost its capital payout and its capital ratios will decline from current levels.

Since the middle of 2019 lower interest rates have pressured net interest income at BAC and have caused a greater decline in the bank's net interest margin than at any of its peers. In addition, during the first nine months of 2020 noninterest income was essentially unchanged from a year earlier as higher revenues in investment banking, investment and brokerage services, and sales and trading were offset by pandemic-related reductions in other fee-generating client activity. As a result, pre-tax pre-provision profits for the first nine months of 2020 declined 18% from a year earlier (excluding a one-time non-cash impairment charge taken in the third quarter of 2019 related to BAC's decision to terminate its joint venture with First Data and take full control of its merchant services business). Nonetheless, the bank's $24.1 billion of pre-tax pre-provision profits over this time period were ample cushion to absorb an $8.6 billion increase in credit provisions driven by expectations for increased loan losses due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the adoption of the Current Expected Credit Losses (CECL) accounting standard.

Moody's believes that while BAC may need to take additional provisions should the economic recovery falter, the bank has sufficient pre-tax pre-provision earnings to be able to absorb any such increase in provisions. And over the medium-term the rating agency expects earnings at BAC to rebound, aided by ongoing expense discipline and growth in deposits and client assets. Nonetheless, Moody's does not expect BAC's profitability (as measured by return on tangible assets) to return to 2019 levels since Moody's believes US interest rates are likely to stay low for an extended period of time.

The continuing emergence of digitally focused competitors poses a threat to incumbent financial services firms. However, Moody's expects that BAC's scale, earnings capacity, and diversity of businesses will allow the firm to continue innovating its client offerings, retain its key relationships and maintain its competitive advantage, even as digital disruption of banking accelerates.

The rating outlook is stable, reflecting BAC's strong and profitable franchises across each of its business segments, ongoing expense discipline, and conservative risk appetite. Moody's sees BANA's baseline credit assessment as being appropriately positioned above the median of its global investment bank peers.

STRUCTURAL AND SUPPORT CONSIDERATIONS

Moody's existing assumptions of Loss Given Failure (LGF) uplift and Government support remain unchanged for BAC and its subsidiaries.

BANA's senior debt, deposit and counterparty risk ratings were affirmed at Aa2, each four notches above the a3 baseline credit assessment, including 3 notches of LGF benefit reflecting Moody's expectation of an extremely low severity of loss in the event of a default, and one notch reflecting a moderate likelihood of systemic support. BANA's subordinated debt is rated Aa3, including three notches of LGF benefit, reflecting Moody's expectation of extremely low loss given failure but a low likelihood of systemic support.

The senior debt rating of the holding company, Bank of America Corporation, is A2, one notch above BANA's a3 baseline credit assessment reflecting Moody's expectation of a low loss given failure. BAC's holding company debt ratings do not incorporate any uplift to reflect the potential for US government support, reflecting Moody's expectation of a low likelihood of government support for holding company creditors. For subordinated securities issued by the holding company, Moody's LGF analysis indicates a high loss-given-failure, and are rated one notch below the BCA at Baa1. The ratings on more junior holding company obligations also incorporate additional downward notching from the BCA reflecting the coupon suspension risk ahead of potential failure.

FACTORS THAT COULD LEAD TO AN UPGRADE OR DOWNGRADE OF THE RATINGS

BAC's ratings could be upgraded if the bank were to sustain its tangible common equity above 12.0% of risk-weighted assets (RWAs) on an advanced approaches basis, sustain its profitability above 0.75% of tangible assets while also lowering its interest rate sensitivity, or reduce its reliance on market funds below 25% of tangible assets on a sustainable basis.

BAC's ratings could be downgraded if the bank suffers a sustained decline in profitability, experiences a significant deterioration in capital or liquidity levels relative to peers and targets, exhibits a marked increase in its risk appetite, or experiences a sizeable operational risk charge or control failure.

Under Moody's loss-given-failure (LGF) analysis, a sustained reduction in the volume of holding company debt outstanding would increase the potential severity of loss for bondholders in the event of the bank's failure and could lead to downgrade of BAC's holding company senior debt ratings and possibly also BANA's subordinated and senior unsecured debt ratings, depending upon the magnitude of the reduction.

LIST OF AFFECTED RATINGS

Affirmations:

..Issuer: Bank of America Corporation

....Commercial Paper, Affirmed P-1

....LT Issuer Rating, Affirmed A2, Stable

....Senior Unsecured Medium-Term Note Program (Local Currency), Affirmed (P)A2

....Senior Unsecured Medium-Term Note Program (Foreign Currency), Affirmed (P)A2

....Subordinate Medium-Term Note Program (Local Currency), Affirmed (P)Baa1

....Subordinate Medium-Term Note Program (Foreign Currency), Affirmed (P)Baa1

....Pref. Stock Non-cumulative, Affirmed Baa3 (hyb)

....Senior Unsecured Bond (Local Currency), Affirmed A2, Stable

....Senior Unsecured Bond (Foreign Currency), Affirmed A2, Stable

....Subordinate Bond (Local Currency), Affirmed Baa1

....Subordinate Bond (Foreign Currency), Affirmed Baa1

....Junior Subordinate Bond, Affirmed Baa2 (hyb)

....Senior Subordinate Bond, Affirmed Baa1

....Pref. Shelf, Affirmed (P)Baa2

....Pref. Shelf Non-cumulative, Affirmed (P)Baa3

....Senior Unsecured Shelf, Affirmed (P)A2

....Junior Subordinate Shelf, Affirmed (P)Baa2

....Subordinate Shelf, Affirmed (P)Baa1

..Issuer: Bank of America, N.A.

....Adjusted Baseline Credit Assessment, Affirmed a3

....Baseline Credit Assessment, Affirmed a3

....Senior Unsecured Bank Note Program, Affirmed (P)Aa2

....Subordinate Bank Note Program, Affirmed (P)Aa3

....ST Bank Note Program, Affirmed (P)P-1

....Commercial Paper, Affirmed P-1

....LT Counterparty Risk Assessment, Affirmed Aa2(cr)

....ST Counterparty Risk Assessment, Affirmed P-1(cr)

....LT Counterparty Risk Rating (Local Currency), Affirmed Aa2

....ST Counterparty Risk Rating (Local Currency), Affirmed P-1

....LT Counterparty Risk Rating (Foreign Currency), Affirmed Aa2

....ST Counterparty Risk Rating (Foreign Currency), Affirmed P-1

....LT Issuer Rating, Affirmed Aa2, Stable

....Senior Unsecured Bond, Affirmed Aa2, Stable

....Subordinate Bond, Affirmed Aa3

....LT Bank Deposits, Affirmed Aa2, Stable

....ST Bank Deposits, Affirmed P-1

..Issuer: B of A Issuance B.V.

....Backed Senior Unsecured Bond, Affirmed A2, Stable

..Issuer: BAC Capital Trust XIII

....Backed Pref. Stock Non-cumulative, Affirmed Baa3 (hyb)

..Issuer: BAC Capital Trust XIV

....Backed Pref. Stock Non-cumulative, Affirmed Baa3 (hyb)

..Issuer: BAC Capital Trust XV

....Pref. Stock, Affirmed Baa2 (hyb)

..Issuer: LaSalle Bank N.A.

....Backed LT Deposit Note/CD Program, Affirmed Aa2, Stable

..Issuer: LaSalle Funding LLC

....Backed Senior Unsecured Medium-Term Note Program, Affirmed (P)A2

....Backed Senior Unsecured Bond, Affirmed A2, Stable

....Backed Subordinate Shelf, Affirmed (P)Baa1

....Backed Senior Unsecured Shelf, Affirmed (P)A2

..Issuer: Bank of America, N.A. (Sydney Branch)

....Commercial Paper (Foreign Currency), Affirmed P-1

....LT Counterparty Risk Assessment, Affirmed Aa2(cr)

....ST Counterparty Risk Assessment, Affirmed P-1(cr)

....LT Counterparty Risk Rating (Local Currency), Affirmed Aa2

....ST Counterparty Risk Rating (Local Currency), Affirmed P-1

....LT Counterparty Risk Rating (Foreign Currency), Affirmed Aa2

....ST Counterparty Risk Rating (Foreign Currency), Affirmed P-1

....Senior Unsecured Medium-Term Note Program (Foreign Currency), Affirmed (P)Aa2

....Subordinate Medium-Term Note Program (Foreign Currency), Affirmed (P)Aa3

..Issuer: Bank of America, N.A., London Branch

....LT Deposit Note/CD Program (Foreign Currency), Affirmed (P)Aa2

....ST Deposit Note/CD Program (Foreign Currency), Affirmed (P)P-1

....Commercial Paper (Foreign Currency), Affirmed P-1

....LT Counterparty Risk Assessment, Affirmed Aa2(cr)

....ST Counterparty Risk Assessment, Affirmed P-1(cr)

....LT Counterparty Risk Rating (Local Currency), Affirmed Aa2

....ST Counterparty Risk Rating (Local Currency), Affirmed P-1

....LT Counterparty Risk Rating (Foreign Currency), Affirmed Aa2

....ST Counterparty Risk Rating (Foreign Currency), Affirmed P-1

..Issuer: BA Australia Limited

....Backed Senior Unsecured Medium-Term Note Program (Foreign Currency), Affirmed (P)Aa2

....Backed Other Short Term (Foreign Currency), Affirmed (P)P-1

..Issuer: BofA Finance LLC

....Backed Senior Unsecured Medium-Term Note Program, Affirmed (P)A2

....Backed Senior Unsecured Bond, Affirmed A2, Stable

....Backed Senior Unsecured Shelf, Affirmed (P)A2

..Issuer: FleetBoston Financial Corporation

....Subordinate Bond, Affirmed Baa1

..Issuer: Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc.

....Senior Unsecured Bond (Local Currency), Affirmed A2, Stable

....Senior Unsecured Bond (Foreign Currency), Affirmed A2, Stable

....Subordinate Bond (Local Currency), Affirmed Baa1

....Subordinate Bond (Foreign Currency), Affirmed Baa1

..Issuer: BAC Canada Finance Company

....Backed Senior Unsecured Medium-Term Note Program, Affirmed (P)A2

....Backed Subordinate Medium-Term Note Program, Affirmed (P)Baa1

....Backed Senior Unsecured Bond, Affirmed A2, Stable

....Backed Senior Unsecured Shelf, Affirmed (P)A2

..Issuer: Merrill Lynch S.A.

....Backed Senior Unsecured Bond (Foreign Currency), Affirmed A2, Stable

..Issuer: Merrill Lynch Credit Reinsurance Ltd.

....LT Issuer Rating, Affirmed A3, Stable

..Issuer: Merrill Lynch International & Co. C.V.

....Backed Senior Unsecured Medium-Term Note Program (Foreign Currency), Affirmed (P)A2

....Backed Other Short Term (Foreign Currency), Affirmed (P)P-1

..Issuer: Merrill Lynch Japan Finance GK

....Backed Senior Unsecured Medium-Term Note Program, Affirmed (P)A2

....Backed Other Short Term, Affirmed (P)P-1

..Issuer: Merrill Lynch Reinsurance Solutions Ltd.

....LT Issuer Rating, Affirmed A3, Stable

Outlook Actions:

..Issuer: Bank of America Corporation

....Outlook, Remains Stable

..Issuer: Bank of America, N.A.

....Outlook, Remains Stable

..Issuer: LaSalle Funding LLC

....Outlook, Remains Stable

..Issuer: BofA Finance LLC

....Outlook, Remains Stable

..Issuer: BAC Canada Finance Company

....Outlook, Remains Stable

..Issuer: Merrill Lynch Credit Reinsurance Ltd.

....Outlook, Remains Stable

..Issuer: Merrill Lynch Reinsurance Solutions Ltd.

....Outlook, Remains Stable

The principal methodology used in these ratings was Banks Methodology published in November 2019 and available at https://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx?docid=PBC_1147865. Alternatively, please see the Rating Methodologies page on www.moodys.com for a copy of this methodology.

REGULATORY DISCLOSURES

For further specification of Moody's key rating assumptions and sensitivity analysis, see the sections Methodology Assumptions and Sensitivity to Assumptions in the disclosure form. Moody's Rating Symbols and Definitions can be found at: https://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx?docid=PBC_79004.

For ratings issued on a program, series, category/class of debt or security this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to each rating of a subsequently issued bond or note of the same series, category/class of debt, security or pursuant to a program for which the ratings are derived exclusively from existing ratings in accordance with Moody's rating practices. For ratings issued on a support provider, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to the credit rating action on the support provider and in relation to each particular credit rating action for securities that derive their credit ratings from the support provider's credit rating. For provisional ratings, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to the provisional rating assigned, and in relation to a definitive rating that may be assigned subsequent to the final issuance of the debt, in each case where the transaction structure and terms have not changed prior to the assignment of the definitive rating in a manner that would have affected the rating. For further information please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page for the respective issuer on www.moodys.com.

For any affected securities or rated entities receiving direct credit support from the primary entity(ies) of this credit rating action, and whose ratings may change as a result of this credit rating action, the associated regulatory disclosures will be those of the guarantor entity. Exceptions to this approach exist for the following disclosures, if applicable to jurisdiction: Ancillary Services, Disclosure to rated entity, Disclosure from rated entity.

The ratings have been disclosed to the rated entity or its designated agent(s) and issued with no amendment resulting from that disclosure.

These ratings are solicited. Please refer to Moody's Policy for Designating and Assigning Unsolicited Credit Ratings available on its website www.moodys.com.

Regulatory disclosures contained in this press release apply to the credit rating and, if applicable, the related rating outlook or rating review.

Moody's general principles for assessing environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks in our credit analysis can be found at https://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx?docid=PBC_1133569.

The Global Scale Credit Rating on this Credit Rating Announcement was issued by one of Moody's affiliates outside the EU and is endorsed by Moody's Deutschland GmbH, An der Welle 5, Frankfurt am Main 60322, Germany, in accordance with Art.4 paragraph 3 of the Regulation (EC) No 1060/2009 on Credit Rating Agencies. Further information on the EU endorsement status and on the Moody's office that issued the credit rating is available on www.moodys.com.

Please see www.moodys.com for any updates on changes to the lead rating analyst and to the Moody's legal entity that has issued the rating.

Please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page on www.moodys.com for additional regulatory disclosures for each credit rating.

David Fanger
Senior Vice President
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Investors Service, Inc.
250 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007
U.S.A.
JOURNALISTS: 1 212 553 0376
Client Service: 1 212 553 1653

Ana Arsov
MD - Financial Institutions
Financial Institutions Group
JOURNALISTS: 1 212 553 0376
Client Service: 1 212 553 1653

Releasing Office:
Moody's Investors Service, Inc.
250 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007
U.S.A.
JOURNALISTS: 1 212 553 0376
Client Service: 1 212 553 1653

No Related Data.
© 2021 Moody’s Corporation, Moody’s Investors Service, Inc., Moody’s Analytics, Inc. and/or their licensors and affiliates (collectively, “MOODY’S”). All rights reserved.

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