An ex-

Merrill Lynch

executive denied reports that he and two other colleagues were looking to purchase some or all of the brokerage from

Bank of America

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Winthrop Smith Jr., the son of one of Merrill's co-founders, told


said he and several Merrill colleagues had lunch with BofA CEO Ken Lewis in April. The group broadly discussed BofA's Jan. 1 acquisition of Merrill, the $45 billion in government bailout funds it has received and the associated restrictions placed on the financial institution, according to the newswire.

Lewis gave the impression that "he's very committed to making

the acquisition work," Smith told



He added that while many Merrill Lynch employees would like to see the firm extricated from BofA, "I don't see that as a reality."

The comments come after the

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Financial Times

reported that Smith and others approached Lewis to discuss buying back the company, but were rebuffed, according to the

Financial Times


"We had lunch with Ken Lewis in Charlotte," he told the


. "The three of us had never met him. It was an opportunity to talk about what was going on and find out if there was anything we could do together."

Former Merrill CEO Dan Tully, Launny Steffens, its former head of private client business, and Dan Sontag, BofA's head of its global wealth management business, also attended the lunch meeting, reports say.

BofA has received more in government bailout funds than any financial company besides


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American International Group

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. BofA received a $25 billion preferred equity investment form the government in October and a second injection of $20 billion after it was forced to take additional billions in losses related to writedowns on Merrill securities backed by troubled mortgages. Lewis has been criticized for either not doing enough due diligence about the extent of losses within Merrill or overlooking those losses in order to seal a deal.

Shares of BofA were trading modestly lower on Friday.