In this Sept. 15, 2008 file photo, outgoing Bank of America Chairman and CEO Ken Lewis listens during a news conference in New York. Lewis will get no salary or bonus for 2009 under an agreement with the government pay czar, who is scrutinizing compensation at bailed-out banks.
(AP Photos/Bebeto Matthews, file)
By STEVENSON JACOBS and VINNEE TONG, AP Business
A taxi speeds past a Bank of America branch in New York's Times Square January 11, 2008.
NEW YORK – Bank of America Corp.'s outgoing CEO, Ken Lewis, will get no salary or bonus for 2009 under an agreement with the government pay czar, who is scrutinizing compensation at bailed-out banks.
Kenneth Feinberg, the U.S. Treasury Department's special master for compensation, suggested that Lewis should get no pay for the year and Lewis agreed, Bank of America spokesman Robert Stickler said Thursday.
In fact, Lewis will pay back about $1 million he has received so far out of a $1.5 million annual salary.
"He will write a check to the company," Stickler said.
The bank spokesman also added that Lewis agreed to the proposal because he felt it was not in the bank's best interest "to get into a dispute with the paymaster."
Wall Street has been eagerly awaiting Feinberg's decisions about pay for 75 of the highest-earning executives at seven firms that got the most taxpayer money. Other companies under Feinberg's scrutiny include American International Group Inc., General Motors, Chrysler and Chrysler Financial.
Treasury spokesman Andrew Williams declined to comment on Lewis' compensation, saying only that Feinberg would seek to "strike the right balance" in setting pay for top executives of firms that received significant government help.
Lewis, who is 62, hastily announced last month that he will step down as CEO by Dec. 31, which will cap off a tumultuous year when BofA has faced accusations it misled shareholders about its acquisition of the investment bank Merrill Lynch & Co.
BofA had no successor in place, leading many to think that his quick exit had surprised the board. It said a replacement would be chosen before Lewis leaves.
The Merrill deal is being investigated by both the Securities and Exchange Commission and New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.
Cuomo's office is trying to determine whether BofA misled shareholders about $3.6 billion in bonuses paid to Merrill employees and the investment bank's mortgage lending losses, as well as whether BofA failed to tell shareholders that it considered backing out of the deal before it closed on Jan. 1.
Lewis was first hired as a credit analyst in 1969 at North Carolina National Bank, in Charlotte, N.C. That bank was a predecessor of NationsBank and later Bank of America. He moved through various positions until he was named CEO of Bank of America in April 2001. He was stripped of the chairman title earlier this year.
Vinnee Tong in San Francisco contributed to this report.