Lewis resignation caught board off guard

Nov. 12, 2009 at 10:50 AM
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CHARLOTTE, N.C., Nov. 12 (UPI) -- The resignation of Bank of America's chief executive "clearly" caught the U.S. bank's board of directors off guard, investment advisers said.

BOA Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Lewis announced six weeks ago he would resign at the end of the year as pressure has been mounting for months concerning the bank's purchase of Merrill Lynch last winter, USA Today reported Thursday.

With Lewis' troubles well publicized, the long delay in naming a replacement has provoked some criticism of the board.

"It's critical that the board be prepared for an untoward event, and in this case the board was clearly unprepared," said Carol Bowie, head of the Governance Institute at RiskMetrics Group.

William Patterson, executive director at CtW Investment Group, which represents $217 billion in assets said, "They told us 'We are ready,'" referring to a succession plan for Lewis. "Now it's starkly apparent that they don't have a plan," he said.

Bank of America spokesman Robert Stickler said, "there was a succession plan in place, but the board didn't have the time to execute it, given the suddenness of this decision."

Stickler said the bank would make an announcement by Thanksgiving.

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