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B of A CEO Lewis: 'We'll Never Know' If I Overpaid for Merrill

Bank of America chief executive Ken Lewis said “we’ll never know" if he overpaid for brokerage Merrill Lynch, which his bank bought for $28 billion last fall.

"The critics would say we should have waited until Monday and have things fall apart and then get it at a bargain rate but they did have other deal offers out there," Lewis said in an interview earlier this afternoon on Fox Business Network.

So far, taxpayers have given B of A $45 billion, much of it to help the bank swallow Merrill.

Unlike the tone set during a speech yesterday by Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein -- apologetic, reform-minded -- from Lewis's viewpoint, neither he nor B of A seems to have done anything wrong over the past year or so.

This despite the fact that B of A's stock has lost 80 percent of its value over the past year and the bank wasn't even in the sub-prime market after 2001, Lewis said today.

Asked if B of A should have disclosed more about Merrill's $15.8 billion fourth-quarter 2008 losses, Lewis said: "No, I think we’ve done everything we were supposed to do, and that will come out as we have these cases tried, and I have no doubt that we did the right thing.”

He said his bank is in a "pretty good position" with regard to Merrill's toxic assets.

Elsewhere during the interview, Lewis said he plans to stay on at B of A -- despite some calls for his resignation -- that its Countrywide business "is on fire in a positive way" and that he has hope that the economy is starting to hit bottom.

However, Lewis does fear a continued "deterioration" in consumer credit as unemployment rises, he said.

-- Frank Ahrens
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By Frank Ahrens  |  April 8, 2009; 3:11 PM ET
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: Bank of America, Countrywide, Ken Lewis  
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