Monday, February 2, 2009
Corporate Crooks and Idiots
John Thain is an idiot. Forget the fact that on his watch, Merrill Lynch lost $15 billion in three months. I don’t need an MBA from Harvard to know that he didn’t have a firm grasp of that bronco. No, I’d think he was an idiot even if he’d manage to save the company from ruin because really, in what universe, does anyone pay $35,114 for a toilet? Frankly, just how much time was he planning to spend sitting on the throne? And I’m guessing that even two-ply Charmin doesn’t make the cut for toilet paper in Thain’s powder room.
Okay, okay, it wasn't really a toilet. His commode on legs is really an antique chest of drawers that was originally designed to hold a chamber pot, but is now considered decorative. Think I could put my old American Standard toilet in the living room and call it art?
How tone deaf, crass, and craven do you have to be to justify spending $1.2 million dollars to re-do your office – even in the best economy? Did it make him work more efficiently? Did it make him turn around a failing company? Um, that would be a “no.” In an interview, he stumbled and stammered his justification about how he just didn’t like the décor of the previous tenant. I assume it offended his delicate sensibilities.
But to give him his due, Thain decided to spread the wealth around – to a chosen few. Right before the merger with Bank of America, but after he’d accepted Federal bailout money, he distributed $4 billion in bonuses to his top echelon. Nevermind that in the same breath, he issued pink slips to the minions at the bottom.
I know that John Thain isn’t the devil incarnate, although tell that to those who have lost their jobs and pensions. But he does represent a culture of entitlement found all too often in the boardrooms of our nation’s failing companies. That “me first” behavior that we insist is unacceptable from preschoolers has somehow become tolerable if you’ve got a seven figure income. These guys have lost touch with the reality facing most of us. So Mr. Thain agreed to pay back the $1.2 million in decorating fees. Big deal, big fat deal. If he had no idea that $87,000 for a rug and $18,000 for a desk are ridiculous expenditures, then this guy shouldn’t be treasurer of the PTA, let alone CEO of a company.
Word of advice to all companies taking Federal bailout money: spend money as if it were coming out of your poor grandmother’s pocketbook…because it is. And if Grandma won’t yell at you for being a wastrel – I sure will.