Bank of America's Ken Lewis Says He's Not Going Anywhere

In January, Sloan, the bank's lead director, reiterated the board's support for Lewis.

"The board today during [its] regular meeting expressed support for Ken Lewis and the management team, noting their experience in managing through challenging environments and in assimilating mergers," he said.

At the time, Sloan also told the Wall Street Journal that the question of Lewis' job security "is not expected to be reopened."

Lewis, however, has made a point to let shareholders and the government know that the bank is not Citigroup, which nows counts taxpayers as the single largest shareholder after a government bailout.

'No One Had a Gun to His Head'

Last month, he told Congress that Bank of America's core "business is strong." In a memo to employees written in February, he said the bank would no longer need government assistance and that "our company has more than enough capital, liquidity and earnings power to make it through this downturn on our own from here on out."

Lewis' supporters echoed that sentiment to ABC

"The bank has got tons of liquidity and a huge branch network with loyal depositors," said a derivatives banker who requested anonymity because of a professional relationship with Lewis. "It can ride out any temporary downturn in value of assets, even if it lasts a couple of years."

The banker said Lewis' bullish statements could be reconciled with the declining stock price because despite the bad mortgages it took on when it acquired Countrywide -- once the country's largest mortgage lender -- the bank still had people walking into its branches every day and depositing money.

"People can still go to Bank of America, rather than lining up outside Countrywide and trying to get their money," the banker said. "Lewis took a bullet for a lot of other creditors. Shareholders might not be very happy but society owes him a debt."

Lewis, he said, could not be blamed for Merrill's paying its employees bonuses before he had control of the company.

But Lewis' detractors say the bank chief has to accept responsibility for the bank's current situation, and that its ability to survive the recession is not reason enough to keep him at the helm of the company after he has caused so much damage, said Ellman, the former Merrill Lynch employee.

Lewis, Ellman said, was "dumb enough" to buy Merrill and agree to the bonus payout without doing adequate due diligence.

"If Bank of American goes down, he has to bear that responsibility. No one had a gun to his head."

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