The largest, most powerful financial juggernaut in the world could be a likely byproduct of the proposed Bank of America Corp. acquisition of Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc., but there may be far more pitfalls awaiting B of A than Ken Lewis, its well-respected and generally careful CEO, may have anticipated.

Just a decade ago the equally ambitious and skilled Sandy Weill created a similar financial juggernaut by acquiring Travelers Insurance and a series of subprime predatory lenders, forming Citigroup Inc. But what Mr. Weill ignored was a brand name backed by corporate responsibility. Within five years, amid major ethical lapses, the Citigroup empire began to disintegrate.

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