Updated from 9:53 a.m. EDT

Bank of America ( BAC) has already developed a short list of possible successors to CEO Ken Lewis, according to a news report Wednesday.

Brian Moynihan, who took over as Merrill Lynch CEO after the ouster of John Thain, is seen as the top candidate, according to the Wall Street Journal. While Lewis has no plans to leave immediately, he has indicated that he would like to move on once BofA repays $45 billion in government loans. The Journal reports that Lewis will be gone within three years, citing sources familiar with the situation.

Other candidates for the top spot include Barbara Desoer, who is head of BofA's home-loan division, and CFO Joe Price, the paper said. However, Moynihan has emerged as Lewis' right-hand man, involved with top-level negotiations with regulators and overseeing the complicated and oft-criticized integration of Merrill Lynch.

Lewis has recently been in the spotlight touting BofA's successes and admitting to mistakes in the Merrill integration. However, the comments came too late for some shareholders who are suing BofA and demanding his ouster. They believe Lewis should have done more homework about Merrill's escalating losses, and put a stop to the $3.6 billion on bonus payments the investment bank distributed directly before the merger.

Bearish analyst Meredith Whitney, who famously predicted Citigroup ( C) would have to cut its dividend and oust then-CEO Charles Prince in 2007 -- before the company did just that -- said Lewis should not be forced out. He made some mistakes, like the Merrill purchase, but his departure would be too disruptive to the company, she said.

"I think he made a mistake of acting more a good citizen than a good steward of shareholder capital, but does it mean he can't effectively run Bank of America, I think he can," Whitney said.

BofA shares were down fractionally to $7.32 in recent trading.
Copyright 2009 TheStreet.com Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.

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