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B of A's Lewis Surprised To Lose Chairman Title

Bank of America chief executive Ken Lewis, fresh from having his title of chairman stripped from him by shareholders, said during an interview this morning that he "never would have expected that vote."

Lewis and his Bank of America has been among the most villified of the big banks. Reason: A hasty $50 billion purchase of troubled brokerage Merrill Lynch last September that was later revealed to come with $15 billion in losses. Then, the bank needed $20 billion worth of taxpayer money to help it swallow Merrill.

Also -- not helpful -- Bank of America stock has lost 80 percent of its value since this time last year.

Meanwhile, Lewis said that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson told him not to back out of the Merrill deal after its problems were exposed and to keep his mouth shut over the brokerage's losses, which Bernanke disputes and a House committee will attempt to sort out in looming hearings.

Asked about the dispute among the three men, Lewis said he has been told not to talk about it by Bank of America lawyers.

In an interview on CNBC today, Lewis said that his bank has been able to unload, in "one-off" deals, some of its toxic assets, selling them for 30 cents to 50 cents on the dollar.

Lewis said that when he talks to institutional investors, their message is clear: "It's just clear. They say, 'Get the government out of your business as fast as you can.' "

Earlier this week, Bank of America said it is looking for new directors for its big, 18-member board, which was criticized here by corporate governance expert Nell Minow in an interview with The Ticker.

The video of the entire interview is below. If it does not load in your browser, click here to view it.

-- Frank Ahrens
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By Frank Ahrens  |  May 8, 2009; 11:22 AM ET
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: Bank of America, Ken Lewis  
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I have several small-scale BofA accounts (checking, savings and a VISA card) and a small amount of BofA stock, all of which started somewhere else and wound up with BofA through its acquisitions. Lately BofA seems to be trying to make up for its megabillions in losses by raising rates and adding obnoxious charges on personal accounts like mine. Talk about shifting the burdens! No wonder Lewis lost one job. He should be grateful he didn't lose both.

Posted by: cjohnson1 | May 11, 2009 1:37 PM | Report abuse

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