John Thain Bonusgate, Round Three

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John Thain is so misunderstood. Back in December, The Wall Street Journal reported that the former Merrill Lynch CEO had lobbied the board of Merrill Lynch for a $10 million bonus after he orchestrated the deal to sell the brokerage to Bank of America, despite the fact that his firm had lost, and would continue to lose, billions of dollars. Merrill Lynch denied the report, but the ensuing outrage came down fast and hard — bonus-buster Andrew Cuomo called it "a thumb in the eye to taxpayers" in a poison-pen letter he wrote to the CEO — and by the end of the day, Thain had given up on a bonus altogether.

Still, the story lived on, until an internal e-mail from from Bank of America's chief administrative officer, Steele Alphin, was leaked to DealBreaker and "Page Six." The e-mail, which was addressed to top Merrill executives, denied that Thain had ever asked for a $10 million bonus. He "just wanted to be paid fairly," Alphin wrote, adding, "John's reputation has not been damaged with our directors or management team, which now includes him."

Of course, then he was fired. But this weekend's Times backs up Merrill's claim, once and for all, that Thain had never requested a $10 million bonus.

Apparently, he asked for $40 million.

A page was ripped from a notebook, and someone on Merrill’s team scribbled eight-digit figures for each of Merrill’s top five executives, including $40 million for Mr. Thain alone ... Mr. Thain in particular felt he deserved a hefty payout for his deal-making heroics, according to five individuals with detailed knowledge of the situation who requested anonymity because of their personal and business relationships with those involved.



That's a whole lot of rugs.



For Bank of America and Merrill Lynch, Love Was Blind [NYT]