Cramer: Shame on Lehman, AIG CEOs

Ask Cramer and he’ll tell you that Merrill Lynch’s John Thain was spot on when in July the CEO took a $9.4 billion write-down due to credit-related investments and then issued 400 million shares to raise capital.

Granted, that offering came not quite two weeks after Thain had said his firm didn’t need new capital, something Cramer wasn’t happy about, but at least the moves let Wall Street know exactly where Merrill Lynch stood. Other financial institutions have been less than forthcoming.

If Lehman Brothers or American International Group, the former all but gone now and the latter fighting to stay afloat, had been as transparent, their situations might be different, Cramer said during Monday’s Mad Money. In fact, the two companies’ balance sheets have been virtual black boxes.

Both CEOs, Dick Fuld and Robert Willumstad, respectively, kept their mortgage exposure close to the chest, knowing how bad the situation really was. And regardless of how precarious a position Lehman and AIG were in, both men were arrogant enough, Cramer said, to shun buyout offers at the 11th hour, thinking their firms were worth more money.

In contrast, Thain’s actions were redeeming, Cramer said, worthy of his removal from the Mad Money Wall of Shame. The CEO did what he could to save Merrill while at the same time negotiating a good price for shareholders in a deal with Bank of America.

Dick Fuld, though, his shame goes one step further. As Cramer said during the show today, the only thing worse than being on the Wall of Shame is coming off because your company no longer exists. That’s an honor not previously bestowed on any member of the Wall.

Robert Willumstad? He had his chance. Just last week, Cramer urged the CEO to take action to avoid a fate similar to Lehman. Doing nothing would guarantee Willumstad a place on the Wall. Of course, as far as Cramer's concerned, he did just that – nothing – and now the stock’s down to about $5 from the $20 it was trading at then. Mr. Willumstad, welcome to the Wall.

Beyond all this is a larger issue here: Why is it CEOs like Willumstad and Fuld aren’t being held responsible? If similar events happened in the sports world, whether it be the National Football League or Major League Baseball, these guys never would have withstood the fan and media scrutiny. Instead Willumstad and Fuld will collect their compensation regardless.

“Where the heck is the outrage?” Cramer asked.

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