Bank Shareholders Oust Lewis As Chairman

Bank of America shareholders have voted to separate the jobs of chairman and chief executive at the company. The move is seen as something of a rebuke of the company's head Ken Lewis, who will stay on as CEO.

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The head of Bank of America has lost one of his titles. Ken Lewis was chairman and CEO of the giant bank until yesterday, when shareholders voted to separate the two jobs. Mr. Lewis is now just the CEO. NPR's Jim Zarroli has more.

JIM ZARROLI: Lewis had been targeted by disgruntled shareholders who wanted to remove him and some other directors from the board. Many of them showed up at the company's board meeting in Charlotte yesterday. The source of their anger was last year's acquisition of Countrywide Financial and Merrill Lynch, both of which lost money in the mortgage crisis. Shareholders complained that Lewis had been pressured by the government to complete the deal and had kept news of Merrill's big losses a secret. But Lewis defended the deals, saying they helped to make the company profitable during the first three months of the year.

Lewis survived the move to oust him, winning approval of two thirds of the votes. But shareholders approved a proposal to separate the jobs of chairman and CEO, essentially undercutting his authority. While Lewis will stay on as chief executive, the job of chairman will be filled by board member Walter Massey, the president emeritus of Morehouse College.

Jim Zarroli, NPR News, New York.

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