Those of us with children have had countless conversations with them that went something like this:
Parent: Why did you <insert some inexplicably stupid act>?
Child: I don't know.
Parent: What were you thinking?
Child: I don't remember.
In the case of Bank of America, MBIA has long wanted to depose Moynihan because it was precisely Moynihan who went public with comments about how B of A was going to make good on the errors made by its bad-seed acquisition, Countrywide. "At the end of the day, we'll pay for the things Countrywide did," was one such comment Moynihan made, in November of 2010.
As it turns out, Moynihan was deposed last May 2. But the deposition was only made public this week, when it was filed as an exhibit in a motion for summary judgment. In the deposition, attorney Peter Calamari of Quinn Emmanuel, representing MBIA, attempts to ask Moynihan a series of questions about what exactly Bank of America knew about Countrywide's operations at various points in time…
Early on, he asks Moynihan if he remembers the B of A audit committee discussing Countrywide. Moynihan says he "doesn't recall any specific discussion of it."
He's asked again: In the broadest conceivable sense, do you recall ever attending an audit committee meeting where the word Countrywide or any aspect of the Countrywide transaction was ever discussed? Moynihan: I don't recall.
Calamari counters: It's a multi-billion dollar acquisition, was it not?
Moynihan: Yes, it was. Well, isn't that the kind of thing you would talk about?
Moynihan: not necessarily . . .
The exasperated MBIA lawyer tries again: If it's true that Moynihan somehow managed to not know anything about the bank's most important and most problematic subsidiary when he became CEO, well, did he ever make an effort to correct that ignorance? "Do you ever come to learn what CFC was doing?" is how the question is posed.
"I'm not sure that I recall exactly what CFC was doing versus other parts," Moynihan sagely concludes.
The deposition rolls on like this for 223 agonizing pages. The entire time, the Bank of America CEO presents himself as a Being There-esque cipher who was placed in charge of a Too-Big-To-Fail global banking giant by some kind of historical accident beyond his control, and appears to know little to nothing at all about the business he is running.
In the end, Moynihan even doubles back on his "we'll pay for the things Countrywide did" quote. Asked if he said that to a Bloomberg reporter, Moynihan says he doesn't remember that either, though he guesses the reporter got it right.
Well, he's asked, assuming he did say it, does the quote accurately reflect Moynihan's opinion?
"It is what it is," Moynihan says philosophically.