Why did Bank of America Corp. fire its general counsel last December in the middle of a controversial merger?
It wasn't performance related, says corporate spokesman Robert Stickler, responding to Tuesday's news reports revealing the firing. And it wasn't related "to any advice he was giving on the Merrill Lynch merger," Stickler adds.
Well, Stickler says, Bank of America was in the middle of a merger and there is always a shuffling of executives. Yes, but according to sources, general counsel Tim Mayopoulos was called out of a meeting with a Merrill executive and into the office of then-chief risk officer Amy Brinkley on Dec. 10. At the time Mayopoulos had been the bank's general counsel for five years and reported to Brinkley, who retired in June.
Brinkley fired Mayopoulos on the spot and had him escorted from the building, according to sources, without giving a reason. Mayopoulos, who became general counsel at Fannie Mae in Washington D.C. in April, didn't return phone calls for comment. Edward Hinson of Charlotte, N.C.-based James McElroy & Diehl, says he can't comment because Mayopoulos signed a severance agreement that pledged confidentiality.
Mayopoulos previously had served as managing director and general counsel, Americas for Deutsche Bank AG's Corporate and Investment Bank. Prior to that he was the managing director and senior deputy general counsel, Americas for Credit Suisse First Boston. Before moving in-house, Mayopoulos was in private practice at Davis Polk & Wardwell.
In a terse press release on Dec. 10, bank chief executive Ken Lewis announced that another bank executive, Brian Moynihan, had been named general counsel. While a lawyer, most of Moynihan's experience was on the bank's business side as head of the global wealth management unit. "In these tumultuous times, the role of general counsel requires broad business and legal expertise," Lewis said in the press release.
Then came some bank musical chairs. After the merger on Jan. 1, Merrill CEO John Thain was named to Moynihan's global wealth job. But then Lewis ousted Thain on Jan. 22, and Moynihan returned to his old job. Lewis named a deputy general counsel, Edward O'Keefe, as the interim general counsel and made the appointment permanent a few months later.
So why was Mayopoulos fired?
"All I can tell you," Stickler insists, "is that there should be no shadow over Tim Mayopoulos or his performance whatsoever. Nor should there be any implication or assertion that it was related to any advice he gave on the Merrill merger."