Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Thursday, October 1, 2009 11:26 pm

Ken Lewis: Hasta la vista, baby

Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis is retiring. Or “retiring.” Take your pick.

It is a measure of the debasement of American journalism that the man can be due $53 million in retirement payouts and CNN can say he “doesn’t have a golden parachute” (it relies on the bank’s own, very attenuated definition of the term).

Questions of criminality aside for the moment, Lewis was a lousy fiduciary, by any measure at all and by the only one that matters. “Lewis took a bank in good shape into the credit crunch – and steered it into a position of needing a $45bn bailout,” England’s Guardian writes. And even CNN acknowledges that “people who bought the stock when he took the reins in 2001 are underwater on their investments.”

Lewis will now have both means and leisure with which to prepare his defense. We can only hope that that defense will include rolling over on then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke for their roles in forcing the BofA takeover of Merrill Lynch on undisclosed terms that royally screwed the bank’s stockholders. But because we live in an Era of Diminished Expectations, I confess I’d be deliriously happy even if all that were to happen was that Lewis and a few members of his board and BofA’s lawyers spent even a few years in Club Fed.

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