Becoming Goldman Sachs


Round of applause for John Thain and the enormous restraint he demonstrated in the five months since taking over Merrill Lynch. He could’ve changed the letterhead, shaved his head and asked people to call him LB from Day One, but he resisted, pandered to the “culture of Mother Merrill,” and even ingratiated himself to the team with a few slipups reminiscent of their former CEO, just to make everyone feel at home. Ultimately, though, the temptation to make the firm “not so much Merrill as Goldman” proved too strong. He would’ve had to have the strength of a pro-wrestler/master beekeeper to hold out much longer, and as you well know, Thain is merely a former high school wrestler, and though very passionate about honey, amateur beekeeper at best. So the statement from MER today that JT has hired former GS colleague Thomas Montag to head trading worldwide should come not come as a shock, nor should the whispers (in our head) that he’s rallying hard to bring in erstwhile Goldman Sachs CEO Jon Corzine in some sort of capacity. Though, according to the rumors, the would be hire has less to do with turning Merrill into Goldman than Thain attempting to assuage his guilt about ousting his mentor back in the day, and also to bring Wall Street’s greatest bear hugs back into his life, via payroll. Additionally, DealBreaker has obtained an internal memo sent out to senior management this morning entitled “Drop Everything: Things We Must Do to Become More like Goldman”

1.If anybody knows someone at the NYSE, try and find out if it’s possible to get our ticker symbol changed from MER to GS2.
2.Begin offering free soda and bottled water on the trading floor today. Cruelly rescind beverage welfare program next week.
3.Contact WSJ, NYT reporters to plant “story” that the Clinton/Obama/McCain campaigns are all “desperate” to land me as treasury secretary.
4.Initiate buddy system between prime brokerage and prop desk in order to facilitate front running of clients.
In other news, Stan O’Neal has been spotted dining at media Mecca Michael’s, with jacket, sans pants.
Merrill's Thain Hires Former Goldman Colleague Montag [Bloomberg]
Sightings [NYP]


Bank Of America Investors Still Don't Feel Properly Compensated For Having Merrill Lynch Rammed Down Their Throats

Remember in 2008, when Ken Lewis was all, "Oooh, wait, I don't know about this Merrill Lynch thing" and tried to back out of buying the bank? And Hank Paulson threatened to stuff him in a meat locker if he did so Ken Lewis said okay, fine, I'll do it? BAC investors are still upset about that. Bank of America directors’ $20 million settlement of investor lawsuits alleging the bank overpaid when it bought Merrill Lynch & Co. amounts to just 4 percent of the board’s $500 million in insurance coverage and is inadequate, lawyers objecting to the accord said. Attorneys for Bank of America shareholders suing in Delaware over the $50 billion acquisition of Merrill Lynch have asked a judge in that state to keep their claims alive even though a federal judge in New York is considering a $20 million settlement of almost identical suits brought by other bank investors. If that accord is approved, it could wipe out the Delaware claims. “The proposed settlement is grossly inadequate and represents only 0.4 percent of the value of the $5 billion derivative claims that the Delaware Derivative Plaintiffs have been vigorously pursuing,” lawyers for the Delaware investors said in a Delaware Chancery Court filing late yesterday. The settlement also amounts to “only 4 percent” of available insurance, they said. Disgruntled shareholders contend the board and former Chief Executive Officer Kenneth D. Lewis misled them about the brokerage firm’s losses leading up to the buyout and should have pulled the plug on the deal. Lewis, who left Bank of America in 2009, is now chairman of Chicago-based LaSalle Bank NA. [Bloomberg]

Goldman Sachs Can Fix This

A week ago today, a man named Greg Smith resigned from Goldman Sachs. As a sort of exit interview, Smith explained his reasons for departing the firm in a New York Times Op-Ed entitled "Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs." The equity derivatives VP wrote that Goldman had "veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say I identify with what it stands for." Smith went on to note that whereas the Goldman of today is "just about making money," the Goldman he knew as a young pup "revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients." It was a culture that made him "love working for the firm" and its absence had stripped him of "pride and belief" he once held in the place. While claiming that Goldman Sachs has become virtually unrecognizable from the institution founded by Marcus (Goldman) and Samuel (Sachs), which put clients ahead of its own interests, is hardly a new argument, there was something about Smith's words that gave readers a moment's pause. He was so deeply distraught over the differences between the Goldman of 2012 and the Goldman of 2000 (when he was hired) that suggested...more. That he'd seen things. Things that had made an imprint on his soul. Things that he couldn't forget. Things that he held up in his heart for how Goldman should be and things that made it all the more difficult to ignore when it failed to live up to that ideal. Things like this: