Bank of America ( BAC) will repay its $45 billion in government loans by early next year, CEO Ken Lewis said this week, as the embattled executive again took pains to separate BofA from more troubled institutions.

Lewis told the Charlotte Observer that his firm will be profitable this year. He said the company could pay back the entire loan now, but is holding onto extra capital because of widespread issues in the financial markets.

Lewis also reiterated his message that he accepted too much in additional government money to seal BofA's merger with Merrill Lynch. By taking $20 billion rather than $5 billion or $10 billion, Lewis said, "it put us too far away from the mainstream, and it did lump us together with Citigroup ( C)."

Lewis, who took a 60% pay cut last year, also said he would "need some time to compile a list" of all the ways Bank of America has been unfairly criticized recently. While some investors doubted the company's financial strength, Lewis has said repeatedly that such fears are simply guilt by association.

Amid the furor over bonus payments at AIG ( AIG) and other troubled institutions, BofA said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday that Lewis did not receive any bonus rewards last year. The CEO's base salary remained constant at $1.5 million, but other compensation -- including stock, options, bonuses, his pension plan and other perks -- led to an overall salary decline of 60%.

All told, Lewis earned just under $10 million last year, vs. $24.8 million in 2007 and $27.9 million in 2006.

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