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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.


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]