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Thain Strain? Merrill's Brokerage Chief Resigns

Monday, 5 Jan 2009 | 8:30 PM ET

Robert J. McCann, the head of the brokerage division at Merrill Lynch, is leaving the firm. The announcement was made by John Thain, Merrill's chief executive and president of Bank of America's global banking. This comes just days after the completion of Merrill's acquisition by Bank of America.

McCann had led the wealth-management division at Merrill , but saw his responsibilities narrowed slightly in a new lineup set last October by BofA. At the time, Bank of America said a higher-ranking "global wealth and investment management" job would be filled by another executive yet to be named.

According to sources at Merrill Lynch, BofA bought Merrill primarily for its brokerage unit. McCann is very popular with Merrill brokers, many of whom have been upset by what they consider to be weak retention bonuses. McCann's departure could lead to brokers leaving Merrill. Many have already left for other firms such as Morgan Stanley .

McCann's departure can be related to continued tension with Merrill president John Thain. McCann was in an odd position. Unlike another top Merrill executive Greg Fleming, he was moved down a notch in the management structure once BofA bought Merrill. McCann was to report to a manager and not directly to Thain.

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According to sources at Merrill, McCann nearly resigned at that point but decided to stay and see how the merger worked out.

After taking a couple of weeks during the holidays to deliberate, McCann determined that he would leave. Sources say that Merrill's immediate worry now is how McCann's resignation might affect the brokerage salesforce.

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