As details of the government's belated "Federal Toxic Landfill Act" emerge -- that is, the rescue plan put forth by Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson -- many thoughts come to mind but none more often than how ticked-off the troops at the Thundering Herd must be that their chief raised the white flag 3 1/2 days too early.
Had John Thain and the board of Merrill Lynch just hunkered down for a few more days, then their famous white-shirted army of advisors would not be POWs under a new general in Charlotte.*
What also strikes me is that the Merrill management ignored the very advice that their brokers were espousing these past few days -- be calm, stay the course, don't panic, don't do anything rash, this too shall pass, etc., etc.
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I don't know about you, but it's clear to me that Merrill panicked and sold at the bottom.
Time will tell whether Merrill's shotgun wedding works out in the long run (my bet is that it will, largely because a $50 billion investment is "too big to fail") but no matter what the outcome, legions of Wall Streeters, especially those with ties to Bear Stearns, Lehman, AIG and Merrill, will forever wonder: What if..?
-What if only we had fought just a little longer..?
-What if there was that Toxic Landfill Act when we needed it?
*(headquarters of Merrill acquiror Bank of America.)
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