Florida attracts BofA biggie

David Mildenberg - Aug 20, 2014 - 11:00:00 am

David Darnell’s move to Florida costs Charlotte its top-ranking Bank of America executive. But why don't more wealthy Tar Heels retire to the Sunshine State, where the temperature is high and the taxes low?

Darnell, 61, is a Charlotte native, Wake Forest University grad and ardent supporter of his hometown, having served as chairman of the Charlotte Chamber. He’s also regarded within the bank and community as a genuinely nice guy. BofA's North Carolina-based leadership team has dwindled since Brian Moynihan replaced Ken Lewis Lewis as CEO in 2010. Most of its key decision-makers now work in New York. However, Charlotte boosters could always point to Darnell, formerly co-COO, as evidence that Moynihan, who lives near Boston, hasn't turned his back on the bank's headquarters city.

That's a tough sell, now that Darnell will become a vice chairman based in Tampa and is no longer equal to COO Tom Montag, a former Goldman Sachs executive who oversees investment banking from New York. Darnell retains responsibility for business banking and wealth and investment management.

Darnell’s Merrill Lynch wealth advisers might recommend a move to Florida for tax-planning purposes. The Sunshine State doesn’t tax personal income, while North Carolina’s tax rate for the highest earners is 5.8% this year and 5.75% next year. His compensation has averaged about $9 million a year over the past three years, so living in North Carolina can cost income-earners at Darnell’s level a half-million dollars a year. Darnell owns a home near Bradenton, Fla., 45 miles south of Tampa, according to property records. "David’s decision was based on a desire to relocate with his family to Tampa and still provide strategic leadership to the company," bank spokesman Tony Allen says. "Nothing more than that."

The state has no way of tracking how many residents move to Florida for tax reasons, says Trevor Johnson, a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Revenue. It’s an impossible stat to gather because many motivations prompt moves, says Richard Borean, spokesman for the Washington-based Tax Foundation. But U.S. Census Bureau statistics rebut the idea of a surge of Tar Heels heading south. About 53,000 more Floridians moved to North Carolina between 1993 and 2010 than vice versa, according to the Tax Foundation.


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