Wachovia Corp., the biggest bank in the Philadelphia region and the fourth-largest in the nation, ousted its chief executive today, adding to the ranks of top financial executives felled by credit-market turmoil.
The move surprised some because last month, Thompson, who faced angry calls for his resignation at the bank's annual shareholder meeting in April, relinquished the role of chairman.
Analysts at Morgan Keegan & Co. Inc. took Thompson's removal "as a sign that more bad news will be forthcoming when Wachovia, which is based in Charlotte, N.C., reports second-quarter earnings in July.
Wachovia's newly appointed chairman, Lanty Smith, was named interim CEO.
"No single precipitating event caused the board to reach this decision, but a series of previously disclosed disappointments and setbacks cumulatively have negatively impacted the company and its performance," Smith said in a statement.
Those disappointments included a $707 million first-quarter loss and a 41 percent dividend cut in April after the bank assured investors that the dividend was safe
Some of Wachovia's problems stem from Wachovia's 2006 purchase of mortgage lender Golden West Financial Corp. for $24.2 billion in a bid for growth in then-hot markets, such as California and Florida.
Since that deal was announced, Wachovia's shares have lost 58 percent of their value. The shares were down 73 cents, or 3 percent, to $23.07 today on the New York Stock Exchange.
Wachovia has 207 branches in the Philadelphia region, with 21 percent of the area's deposits, and 6,401 of the bank's 120,000 worldwide employees are based in the Philadelphia region.