Consumer Fraud

Regions hit by double whammy

A combination of defaulted loans in the plunging housing market and unique woes with its Morgan Keegan & Co. investment arm caused shares of Regions Financial Corp. stock to plunge 73 percent in the past year, according to a report in The Birmingham News. The company is headquartered in Birmingham.

The housing market’s decline is affecting the bottom line at banks nationwide, but the situation has dealt Regions a double-whammy in the shape of fallout from its Morgan Keegan mutual fund investments. The financial giant is facing a number of lawsuits with investors saying they were promised low-risk funds but were instead invested in funds based on risky subprime mortgages. Investors are claiming losses of up to 53 percent.

Now, financial analysts are advising Regions to conserve capital by eliminating dividends that would normally be paid to stockholders, cutting off a source of income for thousands of stockholders, The News reports.

The situation is made even gloomier because stockholders expected 2008 to be a banner year as the result of the November 2006 merger of Regions with AmSouth. The merger combined two of the largest banks in the state and gave Regions Financial Corp. a 16-state reach.

Although the bank is considered well-capitalized and financially sound, Regions’ loan loss fund has grown to $1.4 billion, which is 1.49 percent of net loans, The News reports. This is an increase from 1.45 percent in 2007, which the News says analysts consider a significant jump.