A new book by former Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. head Sheila Bair paints an unflattering portrait of former Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis, saying he was viewed as a "country bumpkin" and "never really fit in" with the big-bank crowd, according to an excerpt to be published in Fortune magazine.
Bair chaired the FDIC from 2006 to 2011 and helped engineer the Wall Street bailout. Her new book, "Bull by the Horns: Fighting to Save Main Street From Wall Street and Wall Street From Itself" chronicles the financial crisis.
The excerpt published online Thursday details a meeting of big-bank CEOs where then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson tries to convince them to accept the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
She briefly gives her impressions of Citigroup's Vikram Pandit and then Wells Fargo chief Dick Kovacevich before turning to Lewis. Here's the section:
"...I let my gaze drift toward Kenneth Lewis, who stood awkwardly at the end of the big conference table, away from the rest of the group. Lewis, the head of the North Carolina-based Bank of America (BAC) -- had never really fit in with this crowd. He was viewed somewhat as a country bumpkin by the CEOs of the big New York banks, and not completely without justification. He was a decent traditional banker, but as a dealmaker his skills were clearly wanting, as demonstrated by his recent, overpriced bids to buyCountrywide Financial, a leading originator of toxic mortgages, and Merrill Lynch, a leading packager of securities based on toxic mortgages originated by Countrywide and its ilk. His bank had been healthy going into the crisis but would now be burdened by those ill-timed, overly generous acquisitions of two of the sickest financial institutions in the country.Bair labels JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon the smartest.
Other CEOs were smarter."