Bank of America CEO Defends Taking on Chairman Title

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer/TNS) —

Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan on Friday defended the Charlotte bank’s decision earlier this year to also give him the chairman title, saying the lender was motivated by a desire to have the best board leadership.

“The board’s view is that to become more of a normal company, like our peers, it was the right thing to do,” Moynihan said in a wide-ranging, half-hour interview with the Charlotte Observer.

The bank announced in October that Moynihan would be its first chief executive to hold the chairman post since Ken Lewis was stripped of the title five years ago. Bank of America split the roles after shareholders in 2009 voted to separate them in the fallout from the bank’s handling of its Merrill Lynch purchase.

The move surprised some investors and corporate-governance experts who argue that splitting the roles provides a better balance of power. Some large investors have asked the bank to hold a shareholder vote on the bylaw change at its upcoming shareholder meeting in the spring.

Moynihan did not say whether the bank will bring it to shareholder vote. But he said the bank will continue to talk to shareholders about their views on the issue.

“I think that’ll play out in the next few months,” he said.

In combining the roles again, the bank made board member Jack Bovender Jr. its lead independent director. Moynihan said Bovender, a director since 2012, will lead the board. The bank last had a lead independent director when Lewis held the CEO and chairman positions.

“If you look at the modern thought process around board governance, the title of chair is not the key,” Moynihan said. “The key is to have a strong independent board leader, and that’s what Jack is.”

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