the greatest depression

‘Good Sir, Your System Has Failed, And It Is Time to Move On’

The following is a dramatic reenactment. Daily Intel was not actually at the Bank of America shareholder meeting today, but after digesting various media reports, we feel like we are qualified to write about it as if we were. We’ve added a few hints of color here and there, of course, to make things moderately more interesting. Oh, and we also gave it a new ending, since the real-life one is actually not that satisfying (Ken Lewis is still not fired has been only half-fired. He lost his chairman title to Walter E. Massey, but remains president and CEO.)

SOUTH CAROLINA: The air is hot. Southern. The room smells of scalded Styrofoam, doughnuts, and a distinctly metallic, human odor. Is it blood? It might be. The room is full of angry shareholders, and the beating of their hearts is causing the plasma to rush into their faces, especially those who stand up to confront chief executive Ken Lewis for the series of bad decisions that has led the bank to lose three-quarters of its value since the merger with Merrill Lynch in September.

A woman stands up. “How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked?” she asks Ken Lewis. She is reading a Psalm, 182.

Another woman reads him a sarcastic poem about his $50 million in compensation.

“Your acquisitions are much akin to the blitzing of Baghdad,” said Fred J. Martin of San Francisco, who said his trip to the meeting cost more than he’ll receive in dividends this year. Because of this, his fellow shareholders kindly abstain from informing him that perhaps he has overworked his line, and the addition of “much” made it sound a little forced.

Good sir, your system has failed, and it is time to move on,” said one man who identified himself as a representative of an Atlanta shareholder, and went on to make references to Thomas Jefferson and the consolidation of power.

Others were more blunt. Lewis “screwed the shareholders royally,” someone said. “The investor is sick and tired of losing money!” said another. “You knew what was going on with Merrill Lynch! You kept it from us! You’re still keeping it from us! It’s a disgrace! You have violated the code of ethics!”

Deborah Snyder of Stafford, Virginia, told Lewis his facial expressions reminded her of her husband, and everyone wondered about her marriage.

And then, as the chorus of anger began to reach a crescendo, a quavering voice rang out from the crowd.

A 92-year-old shareholder said he remembered the last economic depression and knows people are suffering again. But, he told Lewis, “you don’t hear me crying. In fact, I bought 20,000 more of your stock last week.”

The crowd stopped yelling and regarded the old man. The woman with the Bible stopped shaking it, and a beefy man paused to wipe the spittle from his lips. The room grew silent, and the old man continued to speak.

When the water gets rough, do you take the man who knows the most about the problems and throw him overboard?”

Slowly, people began nodding. “He’s right,” someone said. The room filled with applause, Bank of America shareholders smiled for the first time since the year 2009 began, and then slowly began trickling out of the room, until all that was left was Ken Lewis and the old man.

Thanks, Dad,” Lewis said.

The old man smiled. “Do we get to go to Sizzler now?” he asked.

BofA’s annual meeting a raucous affair [Deal]
Source: BofA directors elected comfortably [Charlotte Observer]
Bank of America’s Lewis, Board Said to Retain Seats [Bloomberg]

‘Good Sir, Your System Has Failed, And It Is Time to Move On’