BofA consumer bank, brokerage chiefs to step down

By Joe Rauch

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Reuters) - Bank of America Corp, which has lost almost half of its market value this year, announced a broad reorganization on Tuesday that includes the departure of two senior executives.

The changes are effective immediately, the company said. A bank spokesman said neither Moynihan nor the executives involved in the shifts were available for comment.

Investors did not seem convinced that the reorganization indicates Moynihan now has a steady hand on the controls of a company battling a barrage of litigation and loan losses.

BofA stock inched up to $7.03 in after-hours trading after closing at $6.99 on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday.

"It seems apparent Moynihan is under pressure to make some bold moves," said David Dietze, chief investment strategist at Point View Financial Services in Summit, New Jersey, which owns BofA shares. "Obviously there is disagreement among people at the top who have lots of options and lots of experience."

The shake-up comes less than two weeks after billionaire investor Warren Buffett invested $5 billion in the bank's preferred stock and after the company announced it would shed 3,000 jobs this quarter. The moves only temporarily arrested a share-price decline as investors fear the bank remains on the hook for billions of dollars of mortgage-related losses.

Krawcheck and Price managed key parts of the company's Merrill Lynch operations, which Bank of America bought during the financial crisis and has proven to be one of its most profitable businesses. Both, however, were closely allied with Moynihan's predecessor Kenneth Lewis, whose purchase of Countrywide Financial Corp is responsible for much of its continuing losses.


In their new roles, Darnell -- a veteran commercial banker who also worked closely with Moynihan -- will oversee consumer banking operations, including the Merrill Lynch retail brokerage operations. Montag will run divisions that work with corporate and institutional customers.

"Moynihan has just raised the bar for a small group of executives, including those loyal to former CEO Lewis, to step up and resolve the sins of the past in a more decisive and effective manner," said Todd Hagerman, a banking analyst at Sterne, Agee & Leach.

The reorganization comes as Bank of America hustles to shed assets to bolster its capital base and continues battling lawsuits related to its 2008 purchase of Countrywide, once the nation's largest home lender.

The Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank paid $2.5 billion to buy Countrywide, but writedowns and legal costs have pushed the estimated cost of that purchase to more than $30 billion.

Krawcheck, who was in charge of the Merrill Lynch brokerage unit as well as of U.S. Trust and other private banking units, was recruited by Lewis in August 2009. When he was forced into early retirement in September 2009, she was touted as a candidate for the top job that eventually went to Moynihan.

She faced a daunting task in trying to harmonize various wealth management units that were largely competing to sell products and services to the same constituency of wealthy individual investors.

"It was never clear that Sallie Krawcheck gained traction with the retail salesforce," said Jonathan Finger, managing partner at Finger Interests Ltd, a Houston-based investment management firm that owns Bank of America shares. "I'm not sure she ever had the respect of the bank's retail brokers."

Like Krawcheck, Price was once viewed as a possible successor to Lewis. However, he has been dogged by questions about his role in negotiating the Merrill purchase in the heart of the 2008 financial crisis. The Securities and Exchange Commission accused the bank of failing to disclose to investors $15.8 billion of losses that Merrill was to declare in the fourth quarter of 2008, even as it was paying out $3.6 billion of employee bonuses.

Bank of America paid $150 million to settle the SEC's civil lawsuit. The bank, Price and Lewis still face a civil fraud lawsuit by the New York attorney general's office over its allegedly inadequate disclosures.

Within weeks of his August arrival, Thain was forced to arrange a sale of the company to Bank of America. Montag, nevertheless, received more than $50 million guaranteed under a recruitment contract that kept on giving. In 2009, he was BofA's highest paid executive, earning $29.9 million in total compensation that reflected a stock grant of about $20 million under the contract.

He also acquired notoriety last year when a Senate investigative committee released reams of emails and other documents from Goldman Sachs as part of its probe of the company's creation and sale of complex mortgage-backed securities that allegedly benefited Goldman at the expense of some of its clients. Montag wrote many of the emails, including one that famously described a collateralized debt obligation the company sold in 2007 as one "shitty" deal. That security lost 80 percent of its value.

A two-decade veteran of Goldman Sachs Group Inc, Montag graduated from Stanford University and earned an MBA from Northwestern University.

(Additional reporting by Joe Rauch, Jed Horowitz, Clare Baldwin and Jonathan Stemple; editing by Carol Bishopric, Bernard Orr.)