Bank of America chief executive Ken Lewis may have fouled things up by poorly executing on a series of takeovers during the financial crisis. But with B of A's imminent payback of $45 billion of U.S. government assistance, unveiled Wednesday evening, his successor will be able to focus on reawakening the dormant banking monster — and can even get paid for the job.
The Charlotte-based bank outlined a series of steps it will take to hand back the money it received through the Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Program. It will take $26.2 billion from its pot of cash and other sources of liquid funds, and sell another $18.8 billion in securities that will convert into common equity once shareholders approve an increase in the bank's share count.
To keep its capital up to levels that comfort regulators, the bank also said it will sell enough assets to raise $4 billion of additional equity. After all is said and done, B of A said its Tier 1 common ratio of capital to assets would stand at a relatively healthy 8.5 percent and the bank would save some $3.6 billion in dividends that would otherwise have gone to Treasury.
With the repayment, the messes created by the purchases of Wall Street firm Merrill Lynch and mortgage bank Countrywide will be largely in the rear view mirror. Sure, there are still mortgages, consumer loans and corporate debts that will sour over the next few quarters. And the integration of Merrill will be tested by the coming bonus round after Merrill's bankers received guarantees and B of A's folks went without.
But the new B of A should be a behemoth to be reckoned with. It will have top notch consumer banking, the country's largest pile of cheap deposit-based funding and a leading investment bank and brokerage on Wall Street. Within three years, most analysts reckon it should make more money than even the mighty JPMorgan .
Moreover, freed of the shackles of Tarp, including the Obama administration's pay restrictions, Lewis' successor will even be in a position to get paid. With all that to shoot for, it's perhaps not surprising that the internal front-runner for the job, Lewis' right-hand man Greg Curl, has worked so hard to get the government's agreement to this payback deal.