Ken Lewis: Merrill Lynch Will Pay Off In 2011

Bank of America (BAC) is sitting on the CNBC hot seat this morning, taking questions from Becky Quick and Joe Kernan. So far he hasn’t been challenged much.

Kernan spent some time trying to get Lewis to say what the combined BofA, Merrill and Countrywide could be worth when everything gets back to normal. Lewis says it will be worth a lot.

On today’s mark-to-market change, Lewis suggests it’s not that big of a deal and that claims of a 20% increase in profitability are overblown. Leiws says it’s more a matter of pennies.

On the other hand, perhaps he’d say that either way to suggest that the bank is just fine and doesn’t need fantasy accounting to do well.

Some other highlights: He still regrets taking the second tranche of TARP cash. It was out of an “abundance of caution” he says and a fear that things were worse than they actually were at Merrill. And 2011 is the year that the two big acquisitions will finally bear serious fruit.

On TARP compensation restrictions, he says they have caused the bank to lose some talent and that it’s “absolutely not true” that people have nowhere else to go.

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