BofA sells 3 jets, helicopter, but won't say what it still owns

Bank of America Corp. said Wednesday that it's scaling back the use of corporate jets, including selling three of its planes and Merrill Lynch's helicopter.

The Charlotte bank, like other big banks, is under fire for expenses perceived as superfluous after accepting federal funds designed to stabilize the financial system and boost the economy.

Bank spokesman Scott Silvestri said the sale of the jets came as part of an "ongoing cost reduction effort." He declined to say how many planes the bank still owns. Recent Federal Aviation Administration filings showed the bank had at least eight aircraft.

Since October, Bank of America has received $45 billion in government capital, including a $20 billion injection last month to help with its troubled Merrill Lynch acquisition.

San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co. is downsizing the jet fleet formerly owned by Charlotte's Wachovia Corp., closing down a subsidiary called Hawkaire and making plans to sell off five of the combined company's eight planes. A spokeswoman said the move was tied to the merger, not government scrutiny. Wells Fargo received $25 billion in funding in October.

Bank of America chief executive Ken Lewis' corporate jet use in 2007 was valued at $127,643 in 2007, up from $110,899 in 2006, according to the bank's most recent proxy. The bank calculated the compensation by counting expenses such as fuel and landing fees, but not fixed costs such as the cost of buying the aircraft and the crew's salaries.