Updated with further detail on the Congressional committee hearing.
NEW YORK (
Bank of America
is still aiming to select its next CEO by Thanksgiving, and for those trying to read the tea leaves, there's reason to think the field may have opened up a bit for Chief Risk Officer
The headline that
was resigning from the CEO post at
GMAC Financial Services
indicated one of the more prominent outsider candidates discussed since Ken Lewis made his intentions to leave BofA known on Sept. 30 was suddenly in the market for his next gig. But the inside scoop on de Molina's departure, as reported by the
Wall Street Journal
, was much less flattering than the press release with the
saying de Molina was
because of repeated clashes with regulators and board frustration with his leadership.
Most Popular Today
Most Commented Today
Taking those details into account, the facts of GMAC's performance (it's lining up yet another TARP investment), and the belief that there is some internal resistance because of his recruitment of a considerable number of employees away from the bank since he vacated the CFO post in December 2006, and
The idea of Bank of America bringing in an outsider, which some view as necessary because of the cloud left over internal candidates by circumstances surrounding bonus and loss disclosures related to the
deal, also took a hit over the weekend when the
reported that William Demchak, senior vice chairman and head of global corporate and institutional banking with
PNC Financial Services
, had spurned feelers from BofA because of compensation concerns. The same issue -- a factor because of the government's stake in the company and pay czar Kenneth Feinberg's resulting oversight -- is likely to crop up with any outside candidate.
The other development that may help Curl deals with the person most consider his biggest rival on the inside, Brian Moynihan, BofA's head of global consumer banking. In a case of bad timing, Moynihan is
Tuesday before a Congressional committee about the Merrill deal. The text of his planned statement before the committee is unsurprisingly pro-BofA, referring repeatedly to the company's efforts to "help" consumers and "revitalize" the economy, while defending its actions with regard to the controversial acquisition.
During the Q&A portion of Tuesday's hearing, Moynihan and two board members, Charles Gifford and Thomas May, deflected questions about whether Moynihan is an internal candidate or not. Gifford noted the difficulty in keeping the selection process under wraps, but said board members are under firm orders not to discuss the matter publicly.
However, the directors did give implicit clues as to their preference for an internal CEO candidate by confirming a story that had earlier appeared in the press. In an executive reshuffling last December, Lewis asked Moynihan to take a new position that would force him to relocate from Boston to Delaware. Moynihan refused, saying he'd rather leave the company. When Lewis informed board members of the decision, some rushed to keep Moynihan at the bank.
Gifford said "a number of board members expressed regret" to Ken Lewis, adding: "Mr. Moynihan is one of the most talented executives I've ever worked with."
May said he also expressed a concern to Lewis about Moynihan's near-departure, due to his "versatility" as a lawyer and as a banker: "He can play third base; he can catch; he can pitch," said May. "We've had him in almost every aspect of the business."
As a result, then-general counsel Timothy Mayopoulos was fired, and replaced by Moynihan, who downshifted from his prior role as president of global corporate and investment banking.
Lewis, however, is thought to prefer Curl, who joined Bank of America when its predecessor, NationsBank, acquired Boatmen's Bancshares in 1996. He then spent over a decade wheeling and dealing behind the scenes, gaining a reputation as a key negotiator in BofA's long string of benchmark acquisitions that built it into the coast-to-coast enterprise it is today.
Whatever the perception of Moynihan that comes out of the hearing, it can't be helping his case for CEO to have this direct association between him and the Merrill deal -- whose complications set Lewis on the path to leaving -- crop up now with the board's decision close.
Of course, Curl played a major role when the Merrill deal was happening but he's not currently lined up for an appearance before the committee, and has, for the most part, stayed
during his time at the company.
With outside candidates like Demchak and
Bank of New York Mellon's
Robert Kelly seemingly uninterested, the
of potential candidates could narrow quickly to Curl and Moynihan, the names within BofA's ranks most frequently mentioned from the start.
And, depending on the impression left by Moynihan's appearance today under the bright lights on Capitol Hill, Curl could well be sliding into pole position to claim the Charlotte, N.C.-based bank's top job.
Bank of America shares closed Tuesday at $15.77, down a dime. The stock is still up more than 5% for the past 52 weeks but has now pulled back nearly 20% since reaching its 52-week high of $19.10 on Oct. 15.
Written by Michael Baron in New York. Lauren Tara LaCapra contributed to this report.