Kenneth D. Lewis never imagined his eight-year run as chief executive of Bank of America Corp. would end this way.
He had faced a year of headaches big and small. His mother nudged him about paying back the $45 billion of aid his bank got from the federal government. As he pondered his future during a Colorado vacation in August, a bear rummaged through the refrigerator in his mountain home. But what drove the banker out the door was his inability to get along with Uncle Sam.
It gets worse.
As early as last December, a Federal Reserve official emailed a colleague seeking ideas on getting a "pound of flesh" from Mr. Lewis, amid controversy over his then-pending acquisition of flailing Merrill Lynch & Co.
Well, they got it when Lewis decided to step down from the firm he's worked for for 40 years. But whoever will succeed Antonio?
The Journal looks at that, too, in the inaptly headlined, "Board May Reject Lewis's Picks to Succeed Him." The article doesn't really deliver on the promise of further indignities heaped upon Lewis, but it does let us know who Lewis thinks should be put on the rack next.
First up is Gregory Curl, the old steady hand and current chief risk officer, who Lewis thinks would do a great job steering the S.S. BofA through the icebergs while giving "younger candidates more time to mature."
If the board's not interested in that kind of prudence, well, Kenny says, give it to the young bucks. Brian Moynihan is his first choice amongst the three available, with the consumer banking chief besting investment bank head Thomas Montag and mortgages head Barbara Desoer.
Lewis warned that if the board that had turned against him went outside the firm for its next CEO, it would risk an "exodus of top executives." And given the tremendous job they've all done, who wants to see that?
We could know as soon as Thanksgiving.
Of course, Lewis and his cronies are hardly the only reason that BofA finds itself in such an unpleasant position. The federal officials who bullied the bank into buying the failing Merrill Lynch sure have a funny way of showing their gratitude. In April,
Regulators, including those from the Fed, said they planned to file a confidential memorandum of understanding against the bank because of concerns about such things as governance and its ability to manage risk and fund operations in times of stress.
Directors were shocked Fed officials would slap the bank for its performance after other officials, from the Fed and Treasury, had pressured it to complete a deal it was wary of, the Merrill purchase. The sanction, issued soon after, required the bank to overhaul its board and fix risk-related issues.
Lewis raised the white flag in September. But BofA couldn't even get his final act right. Lewis told three of the bank's directors that he'd announce his plans to leave on Oct. 2. But Chairman Walter Massey couldn't wait to spread the news, leading BofA's chief marketing officer to worry about a leak. Lewis complied on Sept. 30.
Mr. Lewis spoke to directors on the call without notes, seated at a white marble conference table in a Manhattan office. At one point, he ambled to a window and looked toward Central Park, saying nothing.