A shareholder activist group demanded Thursday that Bank of America Corp. fire chief executive Kenneth D. Lewis before the annual meeting next month.

In a letter to O. Temple Sloan Jr., B of A's lead director, William Patterson, the executive director of Change to Win Investment Group, wrote that Lewis must step down "to restore investor confidence" in the $2.5 trillion-asset Charlotte company. The group, which represents seven unions including the Service Employees International Union, wrote that Lewis took "outsized, reckless risks by acquiring" Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. "in the midst of severe financial uncertainty."

It also cited Lewis' failure to walk away from the acquisition or to disclose Merrill's mounting fourth-quarter losses as reasons to dismiss him, and it took umbrage at the bonuses paid to Merrill executives before the Jan. 1 closing of its sale to B of A. A spokesman for the group said it represents pension funds holding about 33 million B of A shares.

Separately, Bank of America is arguing that disclosing the identities of the Merrill executives who got bonuses would cause "grave and irreparable harm" to the company, Bloomberg reported. The company said in documents filed Wednesday in state court in Manhattan that it wants to keep the records private.

A Bank of America spokesman declined to comment.

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