Bank of America: Paid in full

Repayment of $45 billion in TARP money will free nation's largest lender from, among other things, executive pay caps.

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By David Ellis, CNNMoney.com staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Billions of dollars in bailout money received by Bank of America over the past year is now officially back in government hands.

Just a week after announcing plans to repay $45 billion in aid from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the nation's largest lender said Wednesday it had cut a check to the government for the full amount.

"We owe taxpayers our thanks for making these funds available to the nation's financial system and to our company during a very difficult time," Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis said in a statement.

Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500) said it funded the repayment through a combination of cash and the sale of $19.29 billion of securities that would convert into common stock. The stock sale still remains subject to shareholder approval.

As a result of the announcement, however, Bank of America will no longer be beholden to government demands that have been imposed on the company over the past year, including caps on pay for its top executives.

Such restrictions are believed to have posed a serious stumbling block to the company's ongoing search for a new chief executive.

Bank of America's board of directors had originally hoped to select a successor for outgoing CEO Lewis by Thanksgiving. But several candidates are believed to have spurned offers, given the level of oversight the Charlotte, N.C.-based lender faced from the Obama administration's so-called "pay czar," Kenneth Feinberg.

Paying back TARP funds will save Bank of America from having to make any further dividend payments on aid it received from the government. So far this year, the company has paid out $2.54 billion to the Treasury Department.

But exiting the controversial program won't come without a cost. The company said the payment will reduce its fourth-quarter net result by $4.1 billion. The company is now expected to report a loss of $2.8 billion in the current quarter as a result, according to Thomson Reuters. To top of page

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