BofA CEO: Cleaning Up Countrywide Mortgage Mess Is Like Climbing Mountain With 250 lbs. On Your Back

Before the economy nosedived, Bank of America was the aww-shucks upstart from North Carolina who was quietly making its play to become one of the world’s largest banks. Then things turned bad for mammomth mortgage-lender Countrywide and investment bank biggie Merrill Lynch, and BofA swooped in to save both.

But now, with those two acquisitions resulting in at least $40 billion (and possibly more) in lawsuit settlements, penalties, buy-backs, and loan reductions for Bank of America, CEO Brian Moynihan says his company has to fight harder to compete.

“As we look left and right, we’re right with the other climbers, in terms of competitiveness and how we approach the market,” Moynihan told Bloomberg Television’s Erik Schatzker.

Moynihan, who has seen BofA slip from its position as the nation’s largest bank says that his competitors don’t need to work as hard as his bank does.

“They have a CamelBak and a water, and we have a 250-pound backpack.”

He might be overstating things. After all, Wells Fargo acquired a swooning Wachovia and has taken some huge hits for that bank’s lending practices.

JPMorgan Chase has paid hundreds of millions over allegations of fraud related to mortgage-backed securities, billions in the nationwide mortgage-servicing settlement and is currently being sued by the state of New York for alleged misdeeds at Bear Stearns, which the bank acquired after it collapsed.

So maybe those banks just have slightly less weight in their backpacks?

At least none of them have gone to jail.