None of the CEOs appearing before Congress today are in an enviable position, but perhaps the most embattled of them all is Lewis, the chairman and chief executive of Bank of America.
In the run-up to his visit to the nation's capital, Lewis is squelching rumors that Bank of America is at risk of being nationalized and fending off calls that he step down. Like many major bank CEOs, Lewis is forgoing his 2008 bonus.
Last week Lewis, 60, told CNBC that Bank of America would not need additional federal funding and still believes its acquisition of brokerage Merrill Lynch & Co. was the right move.
The already gigantic bank grew even larger in the fall when Lewis, the bank's CEO since 2001, spearheaded the $50 billion buyout of struggling brokerage icon Merrill Lynch. By that time, both Bank of America and Merrill Lynch had been cleared to receive multibillion-dollar investments from the government's Troubled Asset Relief Program -- $15 billion and $10 billion, respectively.
Lewis initially praised Merrill's CEO, John Thain, whom he named to the bank's management team. But the corporate marriage showed serious signs of strain last month when Merrill revealed $15 billion in losses and the U.S. Treasury extended an additional $25 billion to Bank of America to help cushion the blow.
Things at the bank grew even more grim after news broke that Thain rushed out billions in bonuses to Merrill employees before Bank of America's acquisition was complete. Thain resigned Jan. 22, and now Lewis is under fire for what critics say was a failure to perform due diligence before forging ahead on the Bank of America deal.
In early 2008, as the fissures in the financial system first started to show and banks began to collapse, Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase and one of the toughest negotiators on Wall Street, saw an opportunity.
When Bear Stearns faced bankruptcy in March 2008, Dimon struck a deal to buy Bear for $2 a share -- later increased to $10 a share, a tenth of its closing price.
As Dimon, 53, closed the Bear deal that spring, he began to eye Washington Mutual, a teetering giant brought to its knees by bad mortgages. By September 2008, after a summer of plummeting house prices, the savings and loan giant was seized by federal regulators, resulting in the largest bank failure in U.S. history.
JPMorgan Chase paid $1.9 billion in an emergency sale of WaMu, taking over the troubled bank's bad mortgages and credit card loans and assuming $31 billion in loses that would have otherwise been paid by taxpayers. In doing so, JP Morgan Chase took over WaMu's hundreds of bank branches, leaving Chase with the second largest nationwide franchise.
Dimon has been vocal about holding governments to task for the economic meltdown, but his spending has also come under scrutiny: Dimon ran up a $211,182 tab for private jet travel last year, when his family lived in Chicago and he was commuting to New York.