Brian Moynihan has been chief executive of Bank of America (BAC - Get Report) for seven years, and when he took the helm in 2019, return on shareholder equity wasn't positive.

The stock price has gone up, but stock buybacks are at an all-time high for the company.

Last year, stock buybacks amounted to $5.1 billion. And, for the first half this year, BofA has set aside $4.3 billion for stock buybacks.

In other words, Moynihan seems to be admitting that he can only invest the capital that investors have given him at a return less than the estimated cost of capital.

Since he took over, the return on equity has steadily risen, to 0.6% in 2011, 1.8% in 2012, 4.9% in 2013, 2% in 2014, 6.2% in 2015, and is at 6.7%, according to figures released last Friday.

The "theoretical" cost of capital in the banking industry is estimated at 10%. Equity investors are losing money on the capital that they have given Moynihan to play with.

By this measure, he is doing a lousy job, and that might even be an overstatement.

The fourth quarter was a good one for BofA, judging by the company beating analysts' earnings expectations. But, if expectations are extraordinarily low, what does that really mean?

One could say that Moynihan has moved the bank in the right direction because its ROE has risen over time.

But, after seven years as chief executive, the bank is still only earning a 6.7% ROE.

How has Moynihan attained this "stellar" performance?

The charge-off ratio is down, and expense ratios have declined steadily over during much of his tenure. For example, quarterly expenses were down 6.1% in the fourth quarter from a year earlier.

But, that is what Moynihan takes credit for.

In a stock market where investors are looking for every bit of good news they can get, it seems that beating earnings expectations is something to crow about.

Moynihan has had his chance. It may be time for shareholders to show some impatience and move to get someone else to take charge.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.