Eric Dash, Louise Story and Andrew Ross Sorkin
The International Herald Tribune
January 16, 2009
Kenneth Lewis gambled on bold acquisitions to build Bank of America into the nation’s largest bank.
But the need for fresh government support to grapple with the newly revealed losses at Merrill Lynch, the brokerage firm he snapped up in a rapid-fire arrangement at the height of the financial crisis in September, raises questions about whether the bank has gone a deal too far.
Two weeks after closing its purchase of Merrill Lynch at the urging of U.S. regulators, the government cemented a deal at midnight Thursday to supply Bank of America with a fresh $20 billion capital injection and absorb as much as $98.2 billion in losses on toxic assets, according to people involved in the transaction.
The bank had been pressing the government for help after it was surprised to learn that Merrill would be taking a fourth-quarter write-down of $15 billion to $20 billion, according to two people who have been briefed on the situation, in addition to Bank of America’s rising consumer loan losses.
The second lifeline brings the government’s total stake in Bank of America to $45 billion and makes it the bank’s largest shareholder, with a stake of about 6 percent.