Boss talk at Bank of America

Board meets today, and possible replacements for outgoing CEO Ken Lewis could be a hot topic.

By TheStreet Staff Dec 8, 2009 11:50AM

TheStreet.comCEOBy Lauren Tara LaCapra, TheStreet

 

Wall Street is eagerly awaiting results of a Bank of America (BAC) board meeting on Tuesday, at which directors will likely discuss candidates to replace outgoing chief executive Ken Lewis.

 

The succession plan has been fraught with uncertainty, with media reports floating dozens of names, and no clear consensus on whom board members or investors would prefer. A search committee has been sorting out the pros and cons of candidates since Lewis' unexpected announcement on Sept. 30, and reportedly plans to present options to the board on Tuesday.

 

Two internal candidates, Brian Moynihan and Greg Curl, are believed to be leading contenders. However, they have been criticized as lacking the right experience, or adequate experience, and also for being too close to the Merrill Lynch deal. Word that New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has been combing through Curl's Merrill testimony with a fine-tooth comb could add fuel to that fire.

The bank's surprise announcement that it will repay its $45 billion in bailout funds may have swayed some outsiders that were turned off by pay restrictions and strict government oversight. Curl was the point man in negotiating the repayment of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, while Moynihan also has been at work in Washington, tackling other regulatory issues in recent weeks.

 

Time is of the essence for a decision, since Lewis is scheduled to retire at year-end. The board has already passed a few target dates on announcing its new leader, most recently on Thanksgiving.

 

Analysts have said that uncertainty surrounding the CEO plan has kept a lid on Bank of America's stock. Whether the board decides on an insider or an executive with experience at a competing firm like Citigroup (C), Goldman Sachs (GS) or JPMorgan Chase (JPM), if Lewis sticks to his announced timeline, the board has 23 days to make that choice.

 

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