In a memo to employees this week, Bank of America Corp. chief executive Ken Lewis said the bank's board last week “unanimously endorsed our business model, strategic direction and the team” at its regular meeting last week, providing a glimpse inside the key directors' session.
Last week's regular meeting followed the disclosure of the bank's first quarterly loss in 17 years and mounting concerns about its Merrill Lynch & Co. acquisition. Some analysts said Lewis' job might be on the line, but lead director Temple Sloan Jr. later issued a statement of support for the bank's management team.
Lewis said the meeting in Charlotte included a regular post-earnings review of the company and its future plans.
“As I'm sure you can imagine, it was the longest board meeting in anyone's memory,” he wrote. “Every member of the executive management team participated, as we discussed in great detail the company's most recent performance and our plans for getting through the recession in a position of strength.”
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“The burden of execution and accountability, as always,” he added, “rests squarely on our shoulders to vindicate their confidence in us.”
In the memo, Lewis also acknowledged employees are disappointed about cuts to their bonuses. He noted that higher-ranking executives are taking deeper reductions and that neither he nor his top lieutenants are receiving payouts for 2008.
As for the company's performance, he said results in January were “encouraging” and that extreme disruptions in the capital markets seem to be moderating. The bank lost $2.4 billion in the fourth quarter of 2008, while merger partner Merrill Lynch lost more than $15 billion.
The positive remarks about the first month of the year rang ironic to some employees who have recently been laid off as part of the bank's plan to eliminate 35,000 jobs over three years. Some employees losing their jobs were given “economic struggles” as the reason.