June 19, 2009 / 4:40 AM / 8 years ago

Ex-Merrill exec denies talk of buying back bank

2 Min Read

<p>Bank of America CEO and President Kenneth Lewis listens during testimony about his company's acquisition of Merrill Lynch, at a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington June 11, 2009.Jonathan Ernst</p>

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former Merrill Lynch executive Winthrop Smith on Friday denied approaching Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) Chief Executive Kenneth Lewis with two other former Merrill executives to discuss buying back all or part of the bank.

Smith said he dined about two months ago in Charlotte, North Carolina, with Lewis, former Merrill CEO Dan Tully and former Merrill private client chief Launny Steffens.

He said they discussed Bank of America's January 1 acquisition of Merrill broadly, as well as U.S. government restrictions facing Bank of America after it received $45 billion in government money.

"We just had a very nice lunch with him," Smith, a son of one of Merrill's co-founders, said. "We got the impression he's very committed to making (the acquisition) work."

The meeting was also attended by Dan Sontag, head of Bank of America Merrill Lynch's global wealth management business.

The trio had discussed buying back some or all of their old company, the Financial Times reported on Friday.

"A lot of Merrill Lynch (employees) would like to see that happen but I don't see that as a reality," Smith said.

Bank of America declined to comment on the Financial Times report.

Reporting by Elinor Comlay in New York and Ajay Kamalakaran in Bangalore; Editing by Brian Moss

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