Thursday, October 01, 2009

Bank of America - Ken Lewis Orbituary

Bank of America (BAC) is without its President today. Normally not having someone in that chair is a serious problem. But Ken Lewis has been so vexed with regulatory issues one can say that he has not been on the job for quite some time. Many will say that when he was on the job he was not creating shareholder wealth.

They say he made the decision on his own and was not pushed. He wore a beard one day when coming back from vacation. Beards are not last minute decisions. The writing was on the wall when he was removed from his seat as Chairman of the Board. It was clear to most what that really meant. Except to Ken Lewis.

There were subtle but strong pressures. When the board of directors asks you how much longer you are planning to stay that is essentially a termination interview with interruptions. The board bears ultimate responsibility. The board is being recast with new individuals who are not tied to the sins of yesterday.

The big signal to investors is to be concerned about large companies where the same individual is both chairman directly representing the shareholders while at the same time being the President and CEO directly doing the work that shareholders have hired you to do.