Under heavy fire from critics for the bank's losses in the economic meltdown, former Bank of America chairman Kenneth Lewis will step down as chairman, to be succeeded by Dr. Walter E. Massey. Lewis will remain as President and CEO.
All 18 board members were said to "comfortably" resist votes to remove them from the board, but the vote to split the duties of chairman into different posts was successful. Massey, an accomplished scientist and a member of many corporate governing boards, most recently served as president of his alma mater, Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia.
The announcement came after a raucous shareholder meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina today, where investors and activists grilled him for pushing the acquisition of debt-riddled Countrywide Financial and Merrill Lynch, as well as for accepting billions in taxpayer money during the first round of bailouts of the financial market last year.
Countrywide, formerly the world's largest mortgage lender, was acquired last year by Bank of America for $4 billion amid rumors that it would seek bankruptcy protection due to mounting losses from the collapsing housing market. The additional acquisition of Merrill Lynch saddled the banking giant with an estimated $70 billion in capital losses, while shareholders saw their investments drop by an average of 76 percent.[..]
The Service Employees' International Union (SEIU) launched a campaign to remove Lewis as chairman, after it was revealed that Bank of America used $25 billion in taxpayer money it received for executive compensation and buyouts of competitors, while squeezing the credit lines of its customers.
SEIU actually liveblogged the shareholder's meeting and deserves all sorts of credit for really holding Lewis's feet to the fire.
I think Lewis should just be grateful that the shareholders didn't opt to treat him the way that Icelanders have treated the bankers that caused their financial crisis. Just sayin'...