Last year when former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain sold the brokerage to Bank of America, he said it was because he didn't want to end up in the same position as Lehman Brothers' Richard Fuld. But last week, huge Merrill Lynch–related losses at BofA combined with an embarrassing story about Thain's splurging on Marie Antoinette–inspired office décor left him actually worse off than Fuld. He didn't just look arrogant and evil but ridiculous, standing there in the puddle of his reputation like a kindergartner in soiled corduroys.
But Thain is still determined to be unlike the Lehman Brothers CEO, who hid out for weeks after the collapse of his company. He's taken a long hot bath, dried his tears and cleaned up, and is now, apparently, fighting back. This morning CNBC printed a rather defensive memo Thain sent to staff, in which he defended himself against allegations that he'd hid Merrill's problems from Bank of America, blamed the losses on "legacy positions," and, calming down at the end, stated his intention to reimburse the company for his $35,000 commode and assorted other goodies:
The $1.2 million reported in the press was for the renovation of my office, two conference rooms and a reception area. The expenses were incurred over a year ago in a very different environment. Nonetheless, they were a mistake in the light of the world we live in today. I will therefore reimburse the company for all of the costs incurred.
Oh, it was conference rooms, too? That changes everything. Not really, though. Anyway, now Thain is set to be interviewed by Maria Bartiromo at 4:15. Too defensive? Too soon? We'll see. Let's hope he at least knows that Preparation H works wonders on puffy eyes.
Thain's Memo to Merrill Lynch Employees [CNBC]
Earlier: John Thain Is the New Villain of Wall Street