John Thain, Ex of Merrill Lynch : Flush Here

Former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain. Not Clark Kent. Photo by Albert Watson / Fortune.

If you enjoy an item which carries a punch line — esp. one which is unexpected–then this item deserves your reading.

Clarification: a blogger started the story that the $35,000 spent by Thain for a commode was a toilet while actually a commode is a piece of furniture (a kind of chest of drawers one places in a bathroom which was originally designed for the placement of a large bowl of water with which to use for washing of the face along with towel racks place, usually, on each side). The interpretation of commode as a toilet bowl is appealing but inaccurate. Still, the item is worth the reading for the punch line.

— S. M. Wilhelm / The Rag Blog / January 25, 2009

‘Thain was CEO of Merrill Lynch, the big brokerage firm. On a good day, Merrill is worth zero. A week before it was about to go out of business, Thain sold this busted bag of financial feces to Bank of America for $50 BILLION.’

By Greg Palast / January 23, 2009

John Thain is the guy that looks like a Clark Kent doll you saw grinning from page one of your paper Friday morning. Thain was just fired by Bank of America because the square-jawed executive demanded a $30 million bonus after losing $5 billion in just three months at the bank’s Merrill Lynch unit. In addition, Thain spent over a million dollars redecorating his office while, at the same time, the U.S. Treasury was bailing out his company with billions in aid. Thain’s office re-do included the installation of a $35,000 toilet bowl.

Thain was robbed. He shouldn’t have been fired; he should have gotten a $60 million bonus — and Obama should immediately hire him as Secretary of the Treasury in place of that tax-dodging lightweight that’s been nominated, Timothy Geithner.

Here’s the facts, ma’am.

Thain was CEO of Merrill Lynch, the big brokerage firm. On a good day, Merrill is worth zero. A week before it was about to go out of business, Thain sold this busted bag of financial feces to Bank of America for $50 BILLION.

I’d say that’s worth a bonus.

But it gets better. When the bag broke and another $5 billion in losses were discovered at Merrill, Thain went to the U.S. Treasury and got ANOTHER $20 BILLION to cover Bank of America’s bad financial bet — from us, the taxpayers.

Now that certainly deserves a bonus. And let’s face it, a butthole that big needs a $35,000 toilet.

Instead, the guy that paid the $50 billion, Bank of America Chairman Kenneth Lewis, is keeping his job. Lewis is the same guy that just spent billions more on buying Countrywide Financial, the sub-prime mortgage loan sharks that have brought America to its knees and put Bank of America into effective bankruptcy. (Note to Mr. Lewis: the only thing worse than getting cancer is PAYING for it.)

But dumber than Lewis is the loser who OK’d paying Bank of America for its losses on Merrill, who traded a pile of turds for a stack of gold — our gold from the U.S. Treasury. That was Tim Geithner, Obama’s pick for Treasury Secretary, who’s now answering questions at Senate confirmation hearings about his funky tax filings.

Tiny Tim was head of the New York Federal Reserve Bank during the Bush regime. Along with Bush’s Secretary of the Treasury, Geithner came up with that $700 billion bail-out that loaded banks with loot on their way to insolvency. Bank of America got $25 billion of it to spend on Thain’s company Merrill. That was before the extra $20 billion was weedled by Thain.

So why, President Obama, have you given us Tiny Tim to save our sorry nation’s economic behind? What’s with that?

In another life I was an economist. Really. So here’s the economic facts of life: Our valiant young president is going to have to borrow a trillion dollars to bring our economy back from the grave. He’s got to borrow it, no choice about that. But who in their right minds will lend it to us? I can tell you the number one job of a new Treasury Secretary will be to con Saudi sheiks and Chinese apparatchiks into lending us another trillion (they’ve already lent $2 trillion).

Who in the world can talk them into it?

The answer came to me after I went this afternoon to see my proctologist, a brilliant doctor with one eye and really long fingers. (OK, I made that up.) The good doctor told me that hoary old joke about the heart and brain and rectum getting into a fight about which one was more important. When the higher organs made fun of the butt-end, the rectum went on strike. After a month, the brain and heart couldn’t take it any more — the whole body was about to explode. So they told the rectum, ‘You win.’ And the rectum said, Now you know why an asshole’s always in charge.

There’s our answer. Instead of an easily duped, incompetent weasel like Geithner for Secretary of the Treasury, what we really need is a lying bucket of evil snot, a flaming red take-no-prisoners asshole. A guy like Thain that can sell a piece of crap like Merrill for billions — twice — is just what we need to shake down the sheiks. “America for Sale! Cheap!”

And Thain comes with his own gold-plated toilet.

[Greg Palast is the co-author of Steal Back Your Vote, a comic book co-authored with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Watch Palast’s investigative reports on BBC Television’s Newsnight and in Rolling Stone Magazine. For more info go to]

Source / SuicideGirls

The Rag Blog

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3 Responses to John Thain, Ex of Merrill Lynch : Flush Here

  1. I found it interesting when he also spent $800,000 redecorating his office; included in the list of items that were purchased, was a parchment wastebasket for $1,457 (yes, I’ve got the ‘comma’ in the right place; if you want a decimal, then $1,457.00).

    Lamps that were $2,000+ each.

    Furniture – various; most $85,000 ‘per’….

    Makes you wonderf what % was actually for the items themselves, and what % went into the pocket of the decorator.

    It’s pretty hard to stomach reading about this man; then again, when I read about Madoff, I start looking for my $1.98 wire waste-basket to puke in, and realize it will mess up my 9-year old carpet, so I refrain.

  2. Here you go – this really adds to the story:

    John Thain’s Top Ten Greatest Moments
    By Zachary Roth – January 23, 2009, 2:55PM

    If there’s one corporate honcho who’s emerging as the poster boy for all the varied Wall Street sins that the financial crisis has exposed — not just greed, but callousness, obliviousness and general incompetence — its Merrill Lynch’s former CEO John Thain.

    Over the last few days, the revelations about Thain’s mismanagement of Merrill have been coming thick and fast — culminating with his ouster yesterday as an executive at Bank of America, which bought Merrill at the height of the financial crisis last September.

    Thain, a top John McCain backer who was tipped as a candidate for a White House post had the Arizona senator won the presidency — has amassed quite a record in his short time at Merrill. Lavish personal spending, absentee leadership, bonuses for billions in losses — it’s almost been too much to keep track of.

    So we’ve created a handy rundown of Thain’s top 10 greatest moments over the last turbulent year. (You might also want to check out our Merrill Lynch timeline to brush up on how Thain’s missteps fit in with the larger story of his firm’s collapse.)

    In rough chronological order, here are John Thain’s top 10 greatest moments:

    1. The Great Redecoration

    Thain pays $1.2 million last year — well after Merrill’s huge losses on mortgage assets are known — to refurbish his office suite. That includes $800,000 to interior designer Michael S. Smith, who’s also redecorating the White House for the Obama family. (More Smith clients: Steven Spielberg, Michelle Pfieffer, and Cindy Crawford.)

    Other expenses from the big redecorating project, all signed off on by Thain personally:

    Area Rug: $87,784
    Mahogany Pedestal Table: $25,713
    19th Century Credenza: $68,179
    Pendant Light Furniture: $19,751
    4 Pairs of Curtains: $28,091
    Pair of Guest Chairs: $87,784
    George IV Chair: $18,468
    6 Wall Sconces: $2,741
    Parchment Waste Can: $1,405
    Roman Shade Fabric: $10,967
    Roman Shades: $7,315
    Coffee Table: $5,852
    Commode on Legs: $35,115

    At this time, reports CNBC’s Charlie Gasparino on The Daily Beast, Thain is “preaching the virtues of cost control, telling employees to reduce expenses including car services, entertainment and travel”.

    2. The Unfortunate Chair Incident

    During a summer 2008 meeting with his top financial officer, Thain, angry about Merrill’s huge mortgage-asset-related losses, hurls a chair against the wall, shattering a nearby glass panel.

    3. Just Can’t Quit Those Mortgage Assets

    Even after Thain has been forced to beg Bank of America to save his desperate firm, his traders, thinking the market has “bottomed out”, keep trading risky mortgage securities. Those, of course, are the very assets that had helped bring on the massive losses, mostly incurred before Thain’s tenure, that made the Bank of America deal necessary.

    4. The Bonus Fiasco

    In October, Thain suggests he should receive a $30-$40 million bonus. By December, he compromises: $10 million. After a blizzard of public criticism, including from New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, he drops his request for any bonus. Later, he denies having asked for one at all.

    5. The In-Retrospect-Ill-Advised Ski Trip

    In mid December, Bank of America CEO Kenneth Lewis learns that Merrill’s fourth quarter losses will be much larger than expected. Lewis gets the bad news not from Thain himself, but from the transition team handling the merger — perhaps because, after the losses surface, Thain takes off for his ski house in Vail. (A “person familiar with the matter” tells the Journal, hilariously, that Thain was “working and available” while in Vail.)

    6. The Failure To Impress The New Boss

    Asked by Lewis about the new losses, which will officially come to $15.3 billion, Thain “didn’t really have a good grasp of what was going on,”, one source tells the Wall Street Journal. Ultimately, the federal government will in January give Bank of American $20 billion — on top of the bailout funds it had already gotten — to help it absorb the Merrill losses.

    7. The Troubling Lack Of Candor

    Under Thain, Merrill appears not have been as forthcoming as it might have been with its new owner about the state of its books. A Bank of America spokesman tells the Journal today: “Their fourth quarter was way beyond anything they said would happen.” Even worse, Thain may also have been less than straight with Merrill itself. He doesn’t fully inform his own board that, thanks to Merrill’s losses, the federal government might need to step in to ensure the B of A deal goes through, according to complaints from board members.

    8. The Other Bonus Fiasco

    Merrill, with Thain still in charge, accelerates its yearly bonus payments, doling out an estimated $3-4 billion in bonuses before January 1, 2009, when Bank of America will take control. Some at B of A believe the expedited schedule is designed to avoid giving B of A a chance to cut those payments. New York AG Cuomo is now reportedly investigating.

    9. The In-Retrospect-Ill-Advised Planned Trip to Davos

    Thain plans a trip to Davos to attend the World Economic Forum next week — even though Bank of America has discouraged the idea.

    10. The Final Act

    Thain pays $483,320 for 84,600 shares of Bank of America. The following day, he’s fired.

    Well, at least now he can make it to Davos.

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