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Bank of America seeking emergency CEO, Wall Street Journal reports

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Bank of America Corp. plans to select an emergency chief executive this week in case Ken Lewis steps down before the end of the year, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

Last week, the bank said Lewis plans to retire Dec. 31. Bank of America's board has created a six-member committee of directors to find Lewis' successor.

But the planning for an emergency replacement for Lewis, who faces possible legal problems over the bank's acquisition of Merrill Lynch & Co., started before the bank announced Lewis' retirement, the Journal reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.

The board's contingency plan picked up momentum last month after a federal judge rejected a proposed $33 million settlement between the Securities and Exchange Commission and the bank, coupled with reports that New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo may file civil securities fraud charges against Lewis, according to the Journal story.

The idea of finding an emergency CEO to replace Lewis has some analysts questioning whether there would be additional developments with Cuomo's investigation.

"It makes you wonder if something is about to happen," said Aite Group bank analyst Alois Pirker, who asked, "how would the market take it?" if Lewis does step down sooner.

There is no consensus among analysts and investors about who might succeed Lewis.

Bank of America seeking emergency CEO, Wall Street Journal reports 10/05/09 [Last modified: Monday, October 5, 2009 8:13pm]
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