Longtime Bank of America Corp shareholder Jerry Finger launched on Monday his formal campaign to strip Chief Executive Kenneth Lewis of his job as chairman, saying the bank took too much risk by acquiring Merrill Lynch & Co.

Finger urged shareholders to vote against reelecting Lewis, lead director O. Temple Sloan Jr and Jackie Ward to the bank's board of directors at the April 29 annual meeting. Ward chairs the board's asset quality committee.

Bank of America did not immediately return a request seeking comment. Finger is mounting his campaign at his own expense without a formal proxy solicitation, and announced it in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission notice.

Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America agreed to acquire Merrill last September at a 60 percent premium, after less than 48 hours of talks.

The merger created the largest U.S. bank by assets. But Merrill lost $15.84 billion in the fourth quarter, and its condition prompted Bank of America in January to obtain a government bailout including $20 billion of new capital and a loss-sharing agreement on $118 billion of troubled assets.

Finger accused Bank of America of overpaying for Merrill, and failing to timely disclose the extent of Merrill's losses once they became known.

He said the bank has demonstrated a total disregard for shareholder interests, and should focus more on controlling risk rather than on increasing size, market share and geographic footprint.

Finger said his firm, Finger Interests Number One Ltd, owns about 1.1 million Bank of America shares. The Houston-based investor used to run Charter Bancshares Inc, which Bank of America predecessor NationsBank acquired in 1996.

Finger's reported stake is about 0.02 percent of Bank of America's shares outstanding.

Despite rising 26 percent on Monday to close at $7.80, Bank of America shares are 77 percent below where they were when the merger was announced on September 15.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)