Bank Of America CEO Ken Lewis To Retire

Bank of America says its embattled Chief Executive Ken Lewis will step down at the end of the year. Lewis is one of the most powerful and influential figures in the banking business. But he has spent the past year taking heat for his bank's controversial acquisition of Merrill Lynch.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And Bank of America said yesterday that its chief executive, Ken Lewis, will step down at the end of the year. Lewis is one of the most powerful and influential figures in banking, but he has spent the past year battling to keep his job, under fire for his bank's controversial acquisition of Merrill Lynch.

NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.

JIM ZARROLI: A year ago, Ken Lewis looked like he'd be one of the survivors of the financial meltdown. Under his leadership, Bank of America had been through a series of successful mergers and acquisitions, and the company had swooped in to acquire two casualties of the subprime crisis: mortgage lender Countrywide Financial and Merrill Lynch.

Here was Lewis at a press conference discussing the Merrill deal.

Mr. KEN LEWIS (Chief Executive, Bank of America): As we weighed everything, we said it is better to seize on this opportunity as we see it at the moment, as opposed to trying to catch the very bottom and possibly not catching it at all.

ZARROLI: But Lewis would later try to back out of the deal after discovering the extent of Merrill's losses and had to be strong-armed by government officials to proceed. At the same time, he had to contend with shareholders who were unhappy about the deal, especially after it was revealed that Bank of America had approved hefty bonuses to Merrill employees. Some investors mounted a campaign to have him removed, which cost Lewis his position as board chairman.

Meanwhile, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating the way the bonuses were granted. Bank of America said yesterday that Lewis had decided on his own to retire. It also said a successor would be announced by December 31st.

Jim Zarroli, NPR News.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.