Greedy and Stupid

My capacity to be shocked and outraged by news out of the banking/bailout sector has gotten seriously fatigued over recent months. But the news coming about what was Merrill Lynch is eye-popping. I knew that Merrill had given out a lot of big bonuses after the TARP money started flowing. But I’d thought of it as more of an optics issue rather than somewhere where a significant amount of government money had been spent. But now it turns out that in December Merrill (which was then in the process of being taken over by B of A) apparently gave out between $3 and $4 billion in bonuses. Billion.

Even more amazing, last fall CEO John Thain and the folks at Merrill got the bright idea that the distress mortgage market had “bottomed out”, and that it was time to buy, which they then apparently proceeded to do.