Still, the 72-year-old McDavid sold the family's preferred stock in Bank of America last week -- not because of doubts about Lewis' leadership, but because of uncertainty about what would happen to the company in light of the government's unprecedented intervention. He characterizes the transaction with tones of regret and guilt.

"It began to look like this thing was going sour again -- especially with AIG -- and you couldn't get any straight answers out of anybody," says McDavid. "It's the first time I ever thought the thing to do was 100% liquidation ... But I could not sit there and just watch the value sift by hour after hour."

McDavid is certainly not alone in his sentiments, as investors have fled financial stocks en masse. BofA may not be a penny stock, but its market value has plunged from $183.1 billion at the end of 2007 to a mere $18.01 billion at Wednesday's market close, when it finished trading down 1.4% to $3.59.

That deterioration can be blamed on anything from the recession to broad market turmoil to uncertainty about Bank of America's assets to its latest emergency loan. Maybe Bank of America is truly undervalued, as a report from Buckingham Research indicated on Monday, advising clients to accumulate shares.

"We emphasize Bank of America is not Citigroup," says analyst James Mitchell.

But retail investors may be wise to heed Peter Sorrentino, senior portfolio manager of Huntington Asset Advisors. He's been meeting with retail clients on a daily basis, advising them to avoid stocks like Bank of America, at least until "they get the government monkey off their back."

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