(Reuters) – Merrill Lynch & Co Chief Executive John Thain has suggested to directors that he get a 2008 bonus of as much as $10 million, but the battered company’s compensation committee is resisting his request, the Wall Street Journal said, citing people familiar with the situation.
The compensation committee has not reached a decision, but is leaning toward denying Thain and other senior executives bonuses for this year, the people told the paper.
Merrill could not be immediately reached for comment.
Shareholders on Friday approved Bank of America Corp’s takeover of Merrill, a deal fraught with risk but one that would create a banking giant with a leading position in almost every major area of the financial system.
Merrill was arguably saved from extinction when it agreed to merge on September 15, an hour before Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc filed for bankruptcy. The fear was that Merrill could be next if shareholders and trading partners fled, as many did at Lehman and the former Bear Stearns Cos.
Thain has said he deserves a bonus because he helped avert what could have been a much larger crisis at the firm, people familiar with his thinking told the WSJ.
Members of Merrill’s compensation committee agree with Thain that the takeover is in shareholders’ best interest, but believe it would be foolish to ignore strong public sentiment against large compensation packages, the paper said, citing people familiar with their thinking.
Committee members are also weighing the fact that other Wall Street firms, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc, which did better than Merrill this year, are not giving out bonuses to top executives, the paper said.
Thain, who became Merrill’s chief executive after losses in mortgage-related investments led to the October 2007 ouster of Stanley O’Neal, has also run NYSE Euronext, after a long career at Goldman.
After the Bank of America-Merrill deal is completed, he will run the merged company’s global banking, securities and wealth management businesses. Thain will not be joining Bank of America’s board.
(Reporting by Pratish Narayanan in Bangalore; Editing by Kazunori Takada)