Thain’s Pay

What does Jack Flack make of the fact that John Thain’s employment

contract with Merrill Lynch was filed on a Friday evening? It seems to me

that Merrill Lynch was trying to bury its details by having them appear on the

slowest news day of the week. And also, possibly, by having the contract written

in such insanely circumlocutory legalese that no one can make out what on earth

he’s meant to be paid in any case.

Bloomberg and the NYT and the WSJ all tried. But it’s a bit worrying that they

came to startingly different conclusions. Bloomberg’s headline is clear: "Merrill

to Pay Thain at Least $44 Million This Year," it says. The New

York Times says that Thain "can expect an initial pay package of nearly

$50 million" which "could be worth more than $120 million"; its

photo caption is unambiguous that Thain "will get neraly $50 million a

year". The Wall

Street Journal, on the other hand, is much more cautious: Merrill "awarded

John Thain $43.1 million in cash and stock payable over five years," it


Obviously, there’s a huge difference between $43 million over five years and

$50 million per year. Chalk one up for corporate obfuscation.

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