Notes suggest Obama involvement in mergers

The Wall Street Journal reports:

The Obama administration is being drawn into the drama over Bank of America Corp. because of notes taken by bank executives suggesting Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Lawrence Summers, the president’s top economic adviser, supported efforts last year to pressure the bank to consummate its merger with Merrill Lynch & Co.

In one handwritten note dated Dec. 21, Bank of America Chief Financial Officer Joseph Price recounts a conversation with Kenneth Lewis, its chief executive, about Mr. Lewis’s conversations with then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

The note includes hard-to-decipher scribbles, including a reference to firing bank executives, along with “Tim G.” agrees and “Larry Summers + Tim agree.”

In December, federal officials pushed Bank of America to complete its merger with Merrill Lynch, which was in danger of collapsing because of giant losses at the investment bank. Messrs. Bernanke and Paulson warned Bank of America executives that pulling out would be disastrous for the bank and the economy. They told Bank of America executives that the government would oust top management if the bank reneged on the Merrill deal and later sought more government aid. [emphasis added]

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