They're dropping like flies in the bank world. First it was Citigroup's
Surprising? Not really. B of A has been decimated since closing the Merrill deal on New Year's Day. After the shotgun marriage last September quickly turned into an obvious blunder, questions have mounted as to whether Thain more-or-less duped B of A CEO Ken Lewis into the deal, sparking a wave of shareholder lawsuits and internal strife within the new megabank.
I'm glad someone's being held accountable for the blatant mistakes here, but I whole-heartedly disagree that Thain should be the one being shown the door. You can look at the failed deal from two different perspectives: that Thain wasn't 100% forthcoming about the quality of Merrill's assets, or that Lewis was catastrophically irresponsible in judging the assets himself.
Part of me wants to think of Thain as a used-car salesman, selling Lewis an old clunker without being completely up front about the perils of used cars. Three months after the purchase, Merrill's check-engine light comes on. Should the willing buyer, Lewis, be exonerated of all blame, or should the reality that bad things happen to bad cars be the prevailing factor? What ever happened to caveat emptor?
Look, this deal was struck within a 48-hour window last September during the melee of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, AIG's
I understand that Thain did indeed make some shady decisions -- such as a ski trip to Vail while Merrill was burning in December, and paying bonuses early before the deal closed -- but what continues to irk me is that fingers seemed to be pointed at everyone except Lewis.
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Fool contributor Morgan Housel doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. Bank of America is a former Motley Fool Income Investor selection. The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.