Bank of America Corp. is trying to put its performance in the Obama administration's loan-modification program in context, saying that it is grappling with a much larger pool of ineligible borrowers than its rivals.

Though the bank leads all participating mortgage servicers in the number of loan modifications offered to borrowers under the program, it trails other major mortgage servicers in the share of eligible borrowers that have gotten a trial modification.

The bank had started modifications for 15% of eligible borrowers by the end of November, compared with 43% at Citigroup Inc.'s mortgage unit, CitiMortgage; 31% at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and 30% at Wells Fargo & Co.

Jack Schakett, an executive in Bank of America's credit loss mitigation strategies unit, said during a conference call Wednesday that the bank has a larger share than its competitors of customers who fail the eligibility requirements.

The Treasury Department, in its monthly reports on servicer performance in the program, counts eligible borrowers as those at least 60 days delinquent on their loans. Bank of America has roughly one million such borrowers, more than double the total at JPMorgan Chase and roughly triple that at Wells Fargo.

But Schakett said Bank of America estimates that only about 340,000 of these borrowers are likely to meet the program's requirements, such as having mortgage payments that exceed 31% of income.

Schakett argued that the bank had so many delinquent borrowers because it has done more than its competitors to prevent its customers from going toward foreclosure. "Overall, we believe we've held more customers out of foreclosure," he said.

The bank, though it leads other servicers in the number of borrowers that have started trial modifications, has converted only 98 borrowers to permanent modifications.

However, he said, Bank of America would lead all mortgage servicers in conversions to permanent modifications.

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