A longtime banking executive who sold his company to a Bank of America Corp
Jerry Finger said Lewis, who is also Bank of America's chief executive, took too many risks in acquiring troubled investment bank Merrill Lynch & Co.
Finger is asking the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for permission to run a vote no campaign without formally soliciting other shareholders by proxy.
This group of directors needs to be aware of their duty to shareholders and needs to fulfill that, said Jonathan Finger, who with his father co-manages Finger Interests, an investment firm in Houston that primarily manages the family's capital.
Shareholders have increasingly been voicing concern about Lewis' position following the troubled acquisition of Merrill and Bank of America's falling share price. The shares are down almost 60 percent year-to-date.
The Fingers' campaign also calls for shareholders to reject the reelection of lead outside director O. Temple Sloan and Jackie Ward, chairwoman of the bank's asset-quality committee.
Jonathan Finger said his family has had initial discussions with some of the bank's large institutional shareholders.
They are certainly open to hearing our side of the story, he said.
The Finger family controls about 1.5 million Bank of America shares.
There's going to be a very strong outpouring of support for the (Fingers') campaign, said Richard Ferlauto, director of corporate governance and pension investment for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
If the board were to move before the annual meeting to create an independent chair position, I think that would mollify at least for the time being these investors who are right now calling for Lewis' head.
Jerry Finger founded Houston commercial bank Charter Bancshares, which merged with NationsBank in 1996. NationsBank later acquired BankAmerica Corp to become Bank of America in 1998.
Separately, through Finger Interests Number One, the Fingers have filed a lawsuit in New York charging Bank of America executives and board members with concealing information by failing to disclose losses at Merrill Lynch ahead of a shareholder vote on December 5.
We have met with (Jerry) Finger several times to hear his concerns and have attempted to address them, a Bank of America spokesman said.
Bank of America shareholders have proposed voting on eight issues at the April 29 annual meeting on subjects including executive pay, the election of board directors, credit card lending practices and whether to replace Lewis as chairman with an independent director.
(Reporting by Elinor Comlay; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Andre Grenon)