Now that the nation’s top public servant is wielding The Donald-like powers over chief executives of bailed-out companies, expectations are high that more heads will roll, and Bank of America CEO Kenneth Lewis is looking like the next contestant on a new economic prime-time drama: The Executive.
Rick Wagoner, ousted as General Motors CEO, had spent more than three decades in the company and had been in the driver’s seat for most of the last one. He also presided over the era of the energy-unfriendly Sport Utility Vehicle and is criticized for sticking with trucks far longer than he should have.
Lewis has been Bank of America CEO for about eight years. He bought CountryWide, the biggest lender after the market went crazy for real estate and was ultimately forced to buy Merrill Lynch as the salad days of Wall Street wilted.
By contrast, Citigroup’s Vikram Pandit has been running things for just about long enough to endure the worst of the crisis, and AIG’s Edward Liddy was installed by the government. Perhaps it’s the longevity of characters like Wagoner and Lewis that make them seem so deserving of a presidential pink slip.