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Becoming Goldman Sachs

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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]


John Thain Is Ready For His Next Challenge

After he was unceremoniously fired from his post at the newly formed Bank of America Merrill Lynch, for reasons that included paying out big bonuses to ML executives and decorating his office with $1,500 garbage cans, John Thain understood that he would have to recede from the limelight for a bit. Take a job at a smaller firm and keep his head down for a while. Spend more time with his honeybees. Get back to his fighting weight. Drink a raw egg for breakfast every day. Run up and down the stairs of the Met. Work in a hideously decorated space, no matter how much it hurt.  Win some awards. Get his confidence back. Let people miss him. Well, Thain did all that. And now? He's ready for you to make him an offer. Thain, currently the CEO of a small lending outfit called CIT Group, has been quietly shopping the firm to a larger player with the goal of selling possibly to a big bank and emerging as a candidate to run the bigger company, according to investment bankers with direct knowledge of the matter. Bankers say Thain began putting out feelers to sell CIT after the firm failed in its bid to purchase ING Direct earlier in the year. “They've been shopping themselves off and on because they have virtually no deposit base and thus no low-cost source of funds to run their business,” said one banker at a major firm with knowledge of CIT’s activities. “Thain may also be putting out feelers, trying to get a drumbeat going. Who knows, but it's certain he's up to something.” Anyone want to give him a big boy bank (or something) to run? Read more: Looking For A Comeback, John Thain Shops CIT [FBN]

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]