Reeling from previously undisclosed losses from its Merrill Lynch & Co. acquisition, Bank of America Corp. received an emergency capital injection of $20 billion from the Treasury, which will also backstop about $118 billion of assets at the bank, said people familiar with the plan.
Reports of the unexpected Merrill losses sent Bank of America shares to their lowest levels since 1991, and set off a new round of debate in Congress about the scope and mission of the Treasury's financial-system bailouts. Thursday's 18% stock-market drop gives the Charlotte, N.C., bank a market value of $41.8 billion, a sum below the $46 billion in shares it originally offered for Merrill.
As taxpayers are forced to digest the latest Wall Street-Treasury outrage--a secret bailout of Bank of America to the tune of $15 billion of capital and $120 billion of trash-asset guarantees--it's clear that, this time, someone has to be held responsible. And that someone is Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis.
Let's walk through the possibilities:
* If it didn't occur to Ken Lewis that Merrill might be forced to take additional "monstrous" writedowns (as he now reportedly describes them), he should be fired. * If it did occur to him and he didn't check this out during the due diligence process, he should be fired. * If he didn't think the global debt markets could continue to deteriorate to a level that required such writedowns, he should be fired. * If he fully expected the writedowns and just didn't realize what they would do to Bank of America's own stock price, he should be fired.