Perspective, please.

June 13th, 2009 by Rick Drain

Once again I see a the story told

Lewis Takes Heat but Defends Merrill Deal  (1)

in which B of A CEO Ken Lewis tells how he was pressured to go ahead with the Merrill acquisition. He says, again, that he was told ‘by Treasury and the Fed,’ presumably meaning Paulson and Bernanke, that he should hide the ballooning losses at Merrill from shareholders lest “the government threatened to remove him or other Bank of America executives.”

Did I read that right?
Mr. Lewis, it is a crime to withhold material information from the shareholders. It is not the end of the world to lose a cherry job. You absolutely made the wrong choice, at least as far as you’ve described it.

I don’t understand why more attention has not been called to this. People seem to assume, “well, you can’t expect the guy to jeopardize his job.”

Yes, actually, you can expect that. We expect it of all manner of fiduciaries and other people in positions of public trust. History is full of stories of brave people risking their continued employment by refusing to go along with illegal or unethical behavior.

(1) Michael R. Crittenden and Dan Fitzpatrick, “Lewis Takes Heat but Defends Merrill Deal,” The Wall Street Journal, 12 Jun 2009, Dow Jones & Company, 13 Jun 2009 .