Bank of America in hunt for an emergency heir to Lewis

A COMMITTEE of Bank of America (BoA) executives will meet this week to identify an emergency successor to chief executive Kenneth Lewis, in case he is forced out before his planned retirement at the end of the year.<br /><br />The bank&rsquo;s chief executive last month announced his intention to step down at the end of 2009, following a difficult period which has seen him take flak from both shareholders and regulatory authorities.<br /><br />A five-person committee, led by chairman Walter Massey, was set up earlier this year to address potential disputes with regulators and will now turn its attention to identifying an understudy to Lewis.<br /><br />The committee will submit its choice to the bank&rsquo;s board for approval, before seeking the blessing of US regulators.<br /><br />A shortlist of candidates will then be put to President Obama&rsquo;s administration for review, US sources said.<br /><br />Lewis was stripped of the chairmanship of the bank by shareholders in April, over allegations that he did not inform them about $3.6bn (&pound;2.3bn) of bonuses paid to staff at Merrill Lynch, a storm which has also prompted investigations by US regulators into the $50bn takeover.<br /><br />The bank had proposed a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission to resolve the situation, but the offer was rejected and New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo is considering whether to file civil securities fraud charges against Lewis.<br /><br />A separate committee, also fronted by Massey, has been charged with finding a long-term candidate to replace Lewis, the bank has said.