Bank of America Corp. should not promote either Brian Moynihan or Gregory Curl to chief executive because both are "tainted" by the Merrill Lynch & Co. takeover, according to a shareholder.
Finger Interests Number One Ltd., owner of more than a million shares in the Charlotte company, said in a federal filing Wednesday, that internal candidates to succeed Kenneth D. Lewis as CEO are too close to the investigations of the Merrill purchase. Shareholders should look outside the company for a new CEO, the investor said.
"This is the same management team that brought us the Merrill Lynch deal," Jonathan Finger, managing partner at Houston's Finger Interests, said in an interview Thursday. "They have destroyed shareholder value."
Jonathan and his father, Jerry Finger, helped lead a shareholder revolt that stripped Lewis of the chairman's title at the April annual meeting.
Moynihan, 49, the head of the retail banking unit, and Curl, the chief risk officer, are the leading internal candidates to succeed Lewis, according to a person familiar with the succession process, which is private. "The current management team is tainted and not credible," Finger Interests said in the filing. "These senior managers would have had direct knowledge of the day-to-day operations and financial results of Merrill Lynch prior to the shareholder vote, yet none of them protested the disclosure failures or made any attempt to change the course of action."
Robert Stickler, a spokesman for B of A, said people criticizing the internal candidates own relatively few shares out of the company's 8.5 billion outstanding.
Finger Interests may have the ear of other investors, said Joe Morford, an analyst at Royal Bank of Canada's RBC Capital Markets in San Francisco, who has given the stock a "sector perform" rating. "They were one of the more vocal ones pushing the chairman issue earlier this year," he said. "I suspect this will be pretty well disseminated."
New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has said he is considering charges against bank executives over the Merrill transaction. Spokeswoman Emily Browne did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Curl was chief negotiator for the Merrill Lynch deal and probably was "intimately involved" in deciding on the amount and timing of Merrill bonuses, the filing said. These bonuses prompted probes by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the House Oversight Committee and Cuomo's office.
Moynihan was "always professional and acted according to the highest standards," according to the filing. Still, he was a Lewis "confidant," the filing said. Finger Interests also questioned whether Moynihan has enough experience, saying he has managed operating units for fewer than seven years. The filing exempted Sallie Krawcheck, 44, the head of the wealth management division, from its criticism. Krawcheck joined the company in August; she declined to comment on whether she wants the CEO job.
Krawcheck is "terrific" in her current role, Jonathan Finger said in the interview. "I would hate to see the company again change the manager of that very important business," he said.
Former B of A executives Al de Molina, 52, and Jim Hance, 65, would be preferable because of their experience and financial expertise, Finger said in a separate interview. De Molina left the bank in January 2007 and is CEO of GMAC Inc. Hance, who was passed over in 2001 when Lewis got the job, retired as a vice chairman in January 2005.