Mark these words: "Bank of America does not need further assistance today, and I am confident that we will not need further assistance in the future."

That's what

Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Report

CEO Ken Lewis

stated in a memo to BofA staff

last month, according to an analysis by's Lauren LaCapra.

He even went so far as to tell the

Financial Times

Monday that

BofA only needed half of the $20 billion

it sought from taxpayer bailout funds to cover costs from the

Merrill Lynch


takeover. So what are you doing with the other $10 billion, Ken?

Bravado aside, let's look at the stats. BofA reported a fourth-quarter net loss of $1.79 billion. That doesn't even include a $15.31 billion quarterly loss at Merrill because the deal closed after the end of the quarter.

Therein lies the rub. What more damage may come from the Merrill acquisition? And what about the previous Countrywide takeover and all that exposure to the mortgage markets? This company, which I dubbed


in a previous column, is overflowing with risk from all these takeovers.

On its quarterly earnings conference call in January, Bank of America told investors that possibly bigger losses were in the cards for coming quarters.

So is there really reason for hope here, Ken? Or are you just trying to talk investors into letting you keep your job?

Standard & Poor's doesn't share the optimism -- it

lowered BofA's credit rating

yesterday to "A" from "A+" with a negative outlook.

A preview of the federal government's planned "stress test" conducted by TSC Ratings analyst Philip Van Doorn shows that before the recent government infusion to help with the Merrill takeover,

Bank of America was showing signs of needing more capital.

And some say it still does.

And let's not forget how


(C) - Get Report



(AIG) - Get Report

came back to the government for new deals recently.

So, Ken, we'll need more than your empty assurances that everything is OK.

Hall is the editor of

. Previously, he served as deputy editor and chief innovation officer at

The Orange County Register

and as a news manager at

Bloomberg News

in Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Washington, D.C. As a reporter, he covered business and financial markets, worked in both print and television in the U.S. and Europe, and conducted in-depth investigative coverage at

The Journal-Gazette

in Fort Wayne, Ind. His work also has been published in a variety of newspapers including

The Wall Street Journal


The New York Times


International Herald Tribune

. Hall received a bachelor�s degree in journalism and political science from The Ohio State University and has taken graduate management science courses at Boston University.