Late Links: When a big job leaves bankers broken

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Back in the intact days

Back in the intact days (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you work in banking (or possibly anywhere) and you're offered an important and prestigious job at the top of a big and prestigious organization, with the potential for extravagant office refurbishment, think twice.

This is the message from John Thain, the former chief executive of Merrill Lynch, who left Bank of America unceremoniously in 2009. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Thain said that if he could change one thing about his career, he would never have taken the job at Merrill Lynch. Before he made the ill-fated move to Merrill in late 2007, Thain spent fifteen years at Goldman Sachs and three years at the New York Stock Exchange.

So why did Thain go off to Merrill Lynch in its moment of crisis? We suspect that it may have had something to do with his $15m sign-on bonus. Unfortunately, it all went downhill from there. Months after joining Merrill, Thain sold the bank to Bank of America. It later emerged that Thain had negotiated large bonuses for key executives at Merrill Lynch, despite their culpability for the bank's demise. And then it was leaked that Thain had spent $1.2m on a lavish office refurbishment.

Nowadays, the Journal says Thain has a modest office next to a "sparse" conference room with a small map and a framed definition of the word 'integrity'. Thain may be cowed, but he's not crushed. Despite regretting taking the Merrill job in the first place, Thain thinks he performed quite well. "BofA shareholders got a pretty good deal," he said. "I was the CEO of Merrill, and the shareholders got a $50 billion deal when the next week they might have gotten zero, and the employees for the most part kept their jobs and actually got paid."


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