Less than a week after BankAmerica Corp. stunned the investment community with a big third-quarter earnings decline, president David A. Coulter has decided to step down.
Mr. Coulter, 51, said Tuesday that he will leave the company Oct. 30.
A release announcing his departure made no mention of the huge earnings surprise the company delivered Oct. 14, and Mr. Coulter was not available to comment. But analysts said they had little doubt the events were connected.
"His position was obviously weakened given the problems that arose in the third quarter," said Joseph K. Morford, an analyst at Van Kasper & Co. "It sure looks like he's taking the hit for the problems."
"I'm stunned," said R. Jay Tejera, an analyst at Dain Rauscher in Minneapolis. "He is very technology-oriented, which would have been very important to have with these two huge banks merging."
BankAmerica, which was formed Sept. 30 through a merger with NationsBank Corp., has been hit with several shareholder lawsuits since it announced a 78% drop in third-quarter net income, to $374 million.
Several unexpected problems, such as a $529 million trading loss and a $372 million chargeoff for a loan to New York hedge fund D.E. Shaw & Co., arose largely from old BankAmerica units. Mr. Coulter was chairman and CEO of the former BankAmerica, which was based in San Francisco. The company is now headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., NationsBank's hometown.
In a statement, Mr. Coulter said the decision to leave "was extremely difficult for me, both personally and professionally." He described the new BankAmerica as a "strong, stable, and sound financial institution."
"Its heritage is rich, its principles are timeless, and its people are dedicated and talented," Mr. Coulter said.
Mr. Coulter's expertise in capital and risk management is credited with significantly boosting BankAmerica's stock price since he became CEO in January 1996. He joined the bank in 1976.
"David Coulter is a man of the highest integrity," said BankAmerica chairman Hugh L. McColl. "It is very painful for me personally to accept his resignation. We wish him well."
"All of us at Greenlining are disappointed," said Robert Gnaizda, general counsel of the Greenlining Institute, a San Francisco coalition of activist groups. "David Coulter was a leader in the Community Reinvestment Act, sympathetic and concerned with minority issues. We will all miss him."
Mr. Coulter will not leave the bank empty-handed; he is expected to receive a golden handshake of roughly $30 million.