The Powerful, Powerless

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For "Capitalism Meets Populism" drama you can hardly beat the extraordinary shareholder meeting. And when it is an "end of an era" meeting, sounding the funeral bells of a venerable company with near triple digit age counters, the extremes on both ends turn out. So it was with Merrill's "final meeting" today.
Bank of America shareholders voiced their approval in Charlotte in what was likely a less dramatic event, and, equally likely, the die had already been cast before the Merrill meeting today, as most shareholders had already submitted ballots.
Of course, you had to know that the event would be used to sharpen disemboweling cutlasses with Stanley O'Neal's name on them, and perhaps the tongue of shareholder meeting frequent flier Evelyn "Where Is The Accountability, Sonny?" Davis.
For those not in the know, the Dutch Holocaust survivor has sounded the populist shareholder call for four decades, taunting tall-standing, dais mounted CEOs from her 5'1" frame with a thick accent and thicker calls for accountability. Her usual antics absent this time. No hospital scrubs or bathing suits for this meeting. But there wasn't much to say this time either. A widow's black and veil might have suited well, in place of Chanel suit. As if to highlight the powerlessness of those present even more, this time Evelyn was quickly shushed by Thain while trying with her usual spunk to interrupt the keynote. "Now Evelyn, you have to give other people time to speak." This silenced her. And that in itself is frightening.
There isn't a CEO alive who can shush Evelyn Davis, but the power that silenced the Dutch Duchess of Ruckus wasn't intrinsic to Thain. Rather it was channeled from the circumstances though the otherwise hollow, if expensive, suit. The untimely death of Merrill was fait accompli and more potent than any of the attendees.
No, today wasn't for the Evelyn's, whose utility shines when there is actually something in the balance. Today was for the anonymous shareholder's testy, if pointless, recriminations. "We only need one pallbearer for this funeral, and that's Stan O'Neal," was one such. He won't be voting for the merger under any circumstances, you understand.

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