Four months after being made a scapegoat for the Merrill bonuses and losses by Bank of America, John Thain is fighting back. Specifically, he has given an interview with the Wall Street Journal in which he accuses Bank of America of lying about its control over the bonuses. Unfortunately, he’s not saying anything new, so he just looks like he’s whining.
We think John Thain mostly got a raw deal here: It’s clear BOFA knew about the bonuses, and we think Merrill would have gone to zero if Thain hadn’t duped Ken Lewis into buying it for $50 billion (and we imagine that was the real reason he was canned). But Thain was also responsible for the disastrous Q4 losses, so it’s not as though he can hope to be carried out on a bed of roses–especially when he’s just regurgitating everything he said immediately after the fact.
We thought Thain’s PR response after his ouster was smart: An exclusive CNBC interview in which he said all the same stuff he says here. He didn’t whine: He just stated the facts–which were different than Bank of America was then claiming. Then, intelligently, he disappeared.
But now he’s back. With a front-page story. In which he doesn’t say anything new–and therefore does look like he’s whining. A story in which John Reed, the former CEO of Citigroup and supposedly a friend, describes him as “radioactive.”
John Thain will definitely have a second act. But trying to put ever-finer clarifications on WHAT REALLY HAPPENED in those ugly days in January shouldn’t be it. Especially now that the targets of this PR endeavour, Ken Lewis and Bank of America, are already doing a fine job of blowing themselves up.