Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Report

laid off about 20 high-ranking executives last week as it prepares to integrate

Merrill Lynch


, according to a published report.

The cuts, which include some longtime loyalists of CEO Kenneth Lewis, were the first among 30,000 to 35,000 expected over the next three years at the Charlotte, N.C., bank, the

Wall Street Journal


The newspaper reports that the departing executives were taken from the bank's "band 1" layer of management, one rung below Lewis. Some were longtime managers at Bank of America.

Among those asked to leave the company, the


reports, citing people familiar with the situation and internal bank communications, were deputy general counsel David Onorato; Helga Houston, a compliance and risk-management executive for global consumer and small-business banking; and Lance Drummond, a senior e-commerce executive in charge of the Web site

Last week, the bank disclosed the exit of general counsel Tim Mayopoulos, the newspaper reports.

This article was written by a staff member of