bank of america 05Bank of America Discovers The Difference Between Lying And BS: $1.2 Billion


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In his surprise 2005 bestseller “On Bull—t,” retired Princeton philosopher Harry Frankfurt explored the difference between what is commonly referred to as BS from the more serious sin of lying. A BS’er, Frankfurt wrote, has complete disregard for the truth. A liar, on the other hand, cares deeply about the truth – and wants his listener to believe something else.

The line between lying and BS explains why the  Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York threw out a $1.2 billion jury verdict against Bank of America BAC +1.22% over billions of dollars of bad mortgages its Countrywide lending unit sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac going into the global financial crisis. And as it turns out, the subtle differences between BS and lying have obsessed judges and legal scholars for centuries, as they struggled to determine when a careless promise turns into a scheme to defraud.

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