How FEDS pressured Bank of America to buy Merrill Lynch

This hearing should be enlightening:

Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis heads to Capitol Hill on Thursday, and he's likely to be grilled by lawmakers about the government's role in ensuring that the bank complete its controversial merger with Merrill Lynch.

According to emails released Wednesday that pull back the curtain on heated negotiations, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke had suggested to another Fed official that "management is gone," if BofA managers tried to flee the deal and later on needed further government assistance. . . . .

He is expected to be asked specifically about whether the Federal Reserve and other government officials pressured Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500) into completing the merger even after BofA realized how badly Merrill Lynch's fourth-quarter losses would be. . . . .

Lewis told investigators in the New York Attorney General's office earlier this year that he felt his job was on the line if he didn't go through with the deal. Once Lewis learned last December of Merrill Lynch's deterioration, he told then Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson that BofA was considering backing out of the deal, according to his testimony to investigators.

Paulson said that Lewis and the BofA board would be replaced if they sought to end the merger, which Paulson viewed as integral to the health of the U.S. financial system. Paulson told New York investigators that he threatened Lewis' job at the behest of Fed chief Ben Bernanke.

According to a Dec. 21 email released Wednesday, Bernanke called BofA's threat to pull out of the deal a "bargaining chip," saying "we do not see it as a very likely scenario."

In another email, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond President Jeffrey Lacker said that Bernanke considered Bank of America's threat to pull out "irrelevant" and "not credible."

Lacker added that Bernanke "also intends to make clear that if they play that card and they need assistance, management is gone," Lacker wrote. BofA is based in Charlotte, N.C., which is in Lacker's district. . . . .

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home