Webster's dictionary defines a threat as "an expression of intention to hurt, destroy, punish, etc., as in retaliation or intimidation," but to Bank of America Corp. chief executive Kenneth Lewis, things were not so clear-cut.A hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Thursday was supposed to probe B of A's shaky merger with Merrill Lynch. It instead turned into a discussion of the definition of the word "threat."

Several lawmakers press Lewis to admit he was threatened by Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke and Henry Paulson, the former Treasury secretary. According to Lewis, Paulson told him that Bernanke was prepared to fire B of A's management and board if it pulled out of its deal to buy Merrill.

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