You're currently reading an archived version of Jim Hightower's work.
The latest (and greatest?) observations from Jim Hightower are only now available at our Substack website. Join us there!
This is going to sound silly, given the massive bailouts that Wall Street’s financial giants are receiving from us taxpayers, but maybe we should take up a collection to buy a clue for the CEOs of these giants. Or maybe buy some ethics – do they sell those on eBay?
The latest outbreak of banker cluelessness comes from John Thain, who was honcho of Merrill Lynch until a few days ago. Merrill, which lost $15 billion in just the last 3 months of last year, was such a mess that it was taken over by Bank of America in a fire sale. Well, a fire sale underwritten by you and me – Bank of America was given $20 billion by the government to take Merrill Lynch, plus Uncle Sugar guaranteed another $120 billion-worth of bad investments that the two merged entities have on their books.
Enjoying Hightower's work? Join us over at our new home on Substack:
In the midst of this embarrassing collapse and bailout, what was CEO Thain doing? Redecorating his office. Nero might have fiddled as Rome burned, but Thain went shopping while Merrill imploded. He spent $1.2 million last year to spiff up his executive nest, including paying $87,000 for a rug and $68,000 for a credenza.
But he also focused on important personnel matters, such as trying to weasel a bonus of about $30 million for himself – a tidy reward for presiding over the demise of his bank and the loss of jobs for thousands of his employees. Board members balked at this, however, so Thain didn’t get the money, but he did rush out end-of-year bonuses to other top executives – just before the bailout money was paid.
Thain’s excesses were too much for his overseers at Bank of America, so he was forced to resign. As a pampered prince of Wall Street, however, his downfall will be cushioned by millions of dollars in severance and retirement money – and he still won’t have a clue about what a greedhead he is.
“Thain resigns from Bank of America,” www.yahoo.com, January 22, 2009.
“Former Merrill CEO Thain Leaving Bank of America,”
www.yahoo.com, January 22, 2009.
“Thain Resigns Amid Losses at Bank of America,” www.nytimes.com, January 23, 2009.