Daily Archives: December 8, 2008

John Gapper

John Thain’s decision, according to the Wall Street Journal, to press for a $10m bonus this year as chief executive of Merrill Lynch surprises me.

It evokes Barack Obama’s nice comment on the leaders of Detroit car companies flying to Washington by private jet to ask for a federal bail-out: “Well, I thought maybe they’re a little tone deaf to what’s happening in America right now.”

Indeed, that is what surprises me about Mr Thain’s stance, since he has built a reputation as among the most tone-sensitive of Wall Street chief executives. He restored stability at the New York Stock Exchange after the departure of Dick Grasso.

Jim Surowiecki asks: “Does John Thain deserve a bonus?” before concluding that he, in fact, does. He cites Mr Thain’s adeptness in guiding Merrill Lynch into the embrace of Bank of America while Lehman Brothers collapsed, which was about the best Merrill shareholders could have hoped for. Evan Newmark agrees.

But that depends, pace Bill Clinton, on what the meaning of “deserve” is. Read more