Why Bank of America's Ken Lewis Will Take Home More Than Peers

Outgoing Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis' nearly $64 million retirement pay puts him ahead of most, though not all, fellow major bank CEOs who have left their institutions during the financial tumult of the last two years.

The $53 million pension and $10.6 million in deferred compensation -- previous years' compensation that has been delayed until retirement -- for which Lewis is eligible make his exit pay second only to the $161.5 million collected by former Merrill Lynch CEO Stanley O'Neal, according to compensation analysis performed for ABCNews.com by Equilar, a California-based executive compensation firm.

O'Neal's payout came long before the government officials began taking actions to limit executive pay, including the appointment of Obama administration pay czar Kenneth Feinberg. Treasury officials have yet to say whether Feinberg will trim Lewis' package.

The Equilar analysis included a review of compensation for former CEOs of AIG, Citigroup, Countrywide, Merrill Lynch, Wachovia and Washington Mutual who resigned or retired from the firms in the last two years.

According to Equilar, Lewis is eligible to receive nearly as much as Citigroup's Charles Prince ($31.5 million), Washington Mutual's Kerry Killinger ($18.3 million) and Wachovia's Ken Thompson ($14.3 million) combined. Both Killinger and Thompson left their banks before the struggling institutions were purchased by JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, respectively.

Other financial firm heads who saw smaller paydays were Angelo Mozilo ($41.3 million) of controversial mortgage giant Countrywide -- which was acquired by Bank of America during Lewis' tenure -- and Martin Sullivan ($17.5 million) of AIG, the embattled insurance behemoth that has seen some $170 billion in government aid.

Equilar's analysis did not include any stock holdings outside of pension and deferred compensation.

When Lewis' other Bank of America investments are taken into account, he will leave the bank with $125 million in total compensation, said David Schmidt, a senior consultant at James F. Reda & Associates, also a compensation firm.

It could have been even more -- enough to rival O'Neal's retirement pay -- if Lewis had left Bank of America before financial stocks took a beating, as O'Neal did in October 2007, experts said.

As with many of his peers who stepped down in the wake of the financial crisis, Lewis' exit, announced last week, came at a dark time for his employer. Both he and Bank of America, which has received $45 billion in federal bailouts, are under investigation by federal and state officials for the bank's merger with Merrill Lynch and the dispersal of bonuses at that firm as it was merging with BofA.

Still, Schmidt called Lewis' exit pay "fair."

"Everything that he's receiving is stuff that he earned way before the financial crisis and at a time when Bank of America was a premier financial services company," he said.

'As Much Money That God Could Give'

Supporters of Lewis, when discussing his impending departure, said that even before his ascent to CEO in 2001, he was key to helping Bank of America grow into one of the country's largest financial institutions.

Lewis joined the bank in 1969, when it was then known as North Carolina National Bank, and after rising through the ranks to become its head of operations, he helped ensure the companies it acquired stayed in the black, said Richard Bove, an analyst at Rochdale Securities.

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