During the past couple of months I’ve been getting my freak on about the state of the economy, rising unemployment, executive compensation and the excesses of companies that have received billions in public funding just to stay solvent.
And during the past couple of months I’ve been getting some feedback that suggests that, perhaps, I may have crossed the line.
So I went back to take a look.
And you know what? I did. In particular, I owe John Thain an apology. In my first post about the erstwhile Merrill Lynch CEO, I took issue with Thain angling for an additional $10 million bonus after his company lost $11.7 billion and accepted $10 billion in federal bail-out funds.
I suggested that “we gather the villagers and march to his mansion with torches and pitchforks, rend him limb from limb and burn his riding stables to the fucking ground.”
I don’t have any regrets about that comment because the metaphor seems apt.
However my subsequent post about Thain’s $1.2 million redecoration of his office contained some language that I regret.
I don’t regret the title of the post in which I referred to him as a “dick-weed” or some of the adjectives that I used like “fucker”, “fuck” and “fucking shit-wad”. That stuff might have been sophomoric but it was good sophomoric fun. And besides, he really IS a dick-weed.
What I do regret is letting that stone-throwing devolve into real crazy-talk about baseball bats and blood. That was out of line and it falls below the standards to which I aspire.
So apologies to John Thain, that shit-wad, but more important, apologies to those of you who read this blog. I will try to do better.
I also had a conversation with a good friend of mine whose brother works for Merrill Lynch and that put a kind of human touch on the situation. He’s been very successful because he is smart, has a great work ethic and enjoyed the advantages of a first-class education. It’s not his fault that Merrill Lynch melted down but he’s got the stink on him nonetheless.
Which is too bad but probably unavoidable. I don’t think that we should all bite our tongues about malfeasance just because there are some good guys working at Merrill Lynch.
That said, my friend made a couple of points that I will share in the interest of presenting a sharper picture of the situation.
*Most of what Merrill Lynch was doing was built on a solid foundation. The outsized risks that brought the company down were just one small part of their overall business.
*He tells me that Bank of America (Merrill Lynch’s parent company) intends to pay back the federal bailout money received so far.
*John Thain has pledged to pay the firm back for his $1.2 million office renovation.
*That renovation took place at the beginning of 2008 before the meltdown occurred so was not as outrageous as it would have been if he was fiddling while Rome was burning. At the time, that kind of spending was consistent with the standards of the industry.
So there you go.