Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ken Lewis Stripped Of Chairman Role

When you end up angering CalPERS, this should not come as much of a surprise. At least he retains the CEO title: Walter Massey will replace Lewis as Chairman. Now maybe Bernanke can be stripped of the title Uberload of the Formerly Free Financial Markets and Emperor of the Amazingly Ubiquitous SPY Bid.

Bank of America Corp., the biggest U.S. bank by assets, stripped the title of chairman from Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Lewis after investors rebelled against management’s handling of the Merrill Lynch & Co. takeover.

Walter E. Massey, 71, the president-emeritus of Morehouse College in Atlanta, was named chairman, while Lewis will be president and CEO, the bank said in a statement, expressing “unanimous support” for Lewis to continue. A shareholder resolution to split the jobs of CEO and chairman was approved at today’s annual meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Bank of America is based. All 18 directors were re-elected by “comfortable margins,” the bank said.

Glass Lewis & Co. was among proxy advisers that endorsed splitting the CEO and chairman jobs and campaigned against Lewis’s re-election, citing his handling of the Merrill Lynch takeover and a 77 percent decline in the bank’s stock in 12 months. Speculation that Lewis might quit has been fueled by U.S. stress tests, which may show the bank needs more capital.

“It’s a small victory for the people who had a campaign against Lewis but it’s not particularly significant in terms of how the bank will continue to be run,” said Michael Holland, founder and chairman of New York-based Holland & Co., which oversees more than $4 billion in assets and doesn’t own Bank of America stock. “I don’t know how much more of a voice Mr. Massey will have as chairman than he had as a board member.”

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