The news that Ken Lewis is stepping down at the end of the year raises the question: Why Now?
It seems as if the announcement wasn’t planned out very well. Unlike Morgan Stanley, Bank of America doesn’t have a clear succession plan. We don’t know who will be running the largest bank in America on January 1st.
Indeed, the whole thing seems a little bit rushed. Which makes us wonder why the bank wanted to rush this news out now?
One possibility is that Lewis fears he may be sued personally by the SEC in the on-going case over the acquisition of Merrill Lynch. Charlie Gasparino has reported that people close to Lewis were saying—very recently—that Lewis had no plans to step down, and that he wouldn’t step down even if sued personally by Andrew Cuomo. The only thing that would cause him to step down would be a suit by the SEC.
So, naturally, we’re wondering if the SEC is close to suing Lewis. The bank is putting out the word that Lewis hasn’t been ordered to step down by the government. But that doesn’t preclude a voluntary retirement in advance of a coming lawsuit.