Lewis announced today that, effective December 31st, he will step down as the Bank's CEO, a little over a year after he helped the bank buy Merrill Lynch despite the fact that Lynch was about to post big losses. Were Lewis and his deep-pocketed pals aware of Lynch's mammoth problems?
No one knows, but shareholders were not impressed and the whole mess launched an official Congressional investigation, an investigation Lewis insisted today has nothing to do with his predictable departure:
Some will suggest that I am leaving under pressure or because of questions regarding the Merrill deal. I will simply say that this was my decision, and mine alone.
The time was ripe, he wrote, for a "new leader." That leader has not yet been named, but we definitely don't envy him or her.
Nor do we envy Lewis — except for all his money, we suppose — because New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo maintained his bulldog attitude today: "Ken Lewis' decision to step down will have no impact on our continuing investigation."
Nor will the Security Exchange Commission, Congress and the American people be allayed. But, look at it this way: at least now Lewis will have plenty of free time to figure out how the hell to clear his name. Or plan a great escape...