Despite the torrent of lawsuits that Banc One's shareholders have recently filed against the company in connection with its credit card businesses, the existing Banc One asset-backed paper in the market is not likely to be affected, said rating agency sources.
"If any of these shareholder suits were actually successful, Banc One itself would be liable for damages," said David Fanger, of Moody's Investors Service. "It would come from the corporation. It would not impact the asset-backed deals in any way."
The lawsuits address the true quality of Banc One's credit card businesses compared to what was disclosed to investors. The shareholders allege that Banc One falsely inflated revenues and earnings in public statements, driving up the price of the bank's common stock.
"These sort of lawsuits appear all the time, whenever a company reveals surprise losses, but they rarely succeed," Fanger said. "The likelihood is slim that any of these lawsuits will actually get anywhere. Even if they did, the company still has substantial resources apart from its credit card operations, and that's supporting its fundamental ratings."
Though Banc One will continue with its home-equity line, which it publicly debuted in March of 1999, the company is not likely to do a credit card deal anytime soon, simply because portfolio growth levels have been flat of late, according to a company executive.
"I'd say in the big picture, we'll have limited issue in credit card, because we're spending a lot our time focusing on the rest of our balance sheet, so that would include home-equity," she said. "You could see us do something [in the credit card sector] later in the year. It's really about being a little more intelligent about looking across the whole balance sheet."
The spokeswoman said that Banc One is looking to broaden its use of different asset-classes, mentioning the auto sector as one possibility.
Regardless of which sectors Banc One chooses, securitization is part of the overall plan to remove assets from the bank's balance sheet.
"As part of our investor plan we talked about a $15 billion asset reduction that was not incorporated in our plan, and a piece of that will include securitization," the spokeswoman said.
By the end of year 2000, Banc One expects to have First USA, its problem child, back at industry profitability levels, and that company maintains it will a continue to be a very active participant in the credit card business.