Bank Of America CEO Ken Lewis To Retire
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.