Frontline Examines The Bank Of America/ Merrill Lynch Merger

The merger between Merrill Lynch and Bank of America was sold to us as a marriage made in heaven that would save the financial system. It wasn’t, and it didn’t. Now Frontline takes a closer look at the now-infamous debacle that cost tax payers billions — and CEO Ken Lewis his chairmanship.

Things we already knew that were confirmed by Frontline:

  • John Thain, the former CEO of Merrill Lynch, is a slippery mofo.

  • Hearing Ken Lewis describe sh*tcanning John Thain is as fun as you think it will be.
  • Hearing John Thain describe being sh*tcanned by Ken Lewis is equally fun.
  • Bank of America was too eager to show Wall Street who was boss — and ended up stuck with Merrill.
  • Merrill Lynch executives were more interested in their own compensation than pretty much anything else.
  • Paulson thought the merger would stop the financial crisis and restore confidence to the markets even though Lehman Brothers went under. Paulson was not correct.
  • Austan Goolsbee says funny things in interviews.


Edit Your Comment

  1. savdavid says:

    Did anyone see that puff piece on 60 minutes blessing BOA as the amazing bank and the CEO as the patron saint of money? It was on TV right after this merger. I swear it looked like a film cranked out by the PR department of BOA to sell everyone on the institution.

  2. takes_so_little says:

    Saw this last night. As usual, FL did a great job. I am gay for that show.

  3. jrizos says:

    Also, if you haven’t seen it, you want to see Frontline’s special on the timeline of the Wall Street melt down and the desperate Bush Administration moves to sustain it.

  4. Parapraxis says:

    I’d also recommend Frontline’s interview with the reclusive white supremacist Clayton Bigsby.

    Definitely an eye-opener. Anyone remember that one?

  5. Zclyh3 says:

    Austan Goolsbee is the man! Telling it like it is. Great show. Inside the Meltdown also needs to be watched.

  6. takes_so_little says:

    Has anyone ever seen a BAD FL? I wish they sold DVD compilations, but as far as I know they only publish one episode per disc. My library has several, but frankly, as a teacher and a dad, I’d love to own them all.

  7. grapedog says:

    Why ANYONE believed anything that washington or wall street or the media said is beyond belief for me. I’m of the same opinion now as I was when this all started, let the businesses that were going to fail, fail. No business is too big to fail, it’s a wad of BS. The bailout was never going to work and all it did was pad the pockets of fat cats.

    The american public pisses me off so much sometimes…

    All this failure is still going to happen within the system, now it’s just going to take a much longer time and cost a LOT more money.

    Thanks voters for havings your asses up your collective heads!

    • econobiker says:

      @grapedog: Problem is that the “regulators” were from those businesses and industry originally. Of course, they didn’t want them to fail. If true outsiders could have looked at it in a neutral way then maybe these businesses could have been allowed to fail.

      As for the politicians- look both D and R parties are business owned and supported. Both of these groups have a racket going and do not want to give it up. The media industry is intertwined with the money involved and so will not report on alternative political parties. The example I always use is to ask a report if he/she knows that the Commission on Presidential Debates is run by the D/R parties to exclude 3rd parties and who funds that Commission. Most journalism flacks have no clue what you would be talking about.

      • grapedog says:

        @econobiker: Oh, i agree completely with that point, I ranted about the government in another thread already today, lol. I was trying to pace myself or else people might start pointing to the vein in my head that’s about to burst.

        I’m in complete agreement that the two party system is largely useless now and days, and that neither McCain or Obama were agents of actual “change”.

        My earlier rant was on the fact that the american public puts so much emphasis on the president when they should be more concerned with our congress. that’s where the actual power is…the president is a figure head to set a direction and seems like to keep the eyes of the actual guys who make/pass the laws.


      • Trai_Dep says:

        @econobiker: That’s why I avoid categorizing on political affiliation, since both sides have characters that will disappoint and obfuscate.
        Focusing on ideologies, such as Conservative vs Progressive, however, allows me to connect the dots much more accurately.

    • Trai_Dep says:

      @grapedog: Washington DC OR Wall Street OR the Media?
      So, who DO you rely on for your media diet?
      That is, that’s a mighty broad brush you’re stroking with there, cowboy. That’s like saying you hate food because EVERYTHING out there tastes like a Big Mac. Perhaps the problem isn’t what you read and watch, it’s where you read and watch.

      • grapedog says:

        @Trai_Dep: My job is brainless, i pretty much sit around all day and read website after website after website. Everything from The Consumerist, to The Economist, to the WSJ, to Bloomberg, to the Market Ticker, to Wired, to Nature, to Ars Technica to…the list goes on and on. I don’t depend on just one site, I try to read as many as I can. Most of these sites are linking to other sites too with more information, so I read those too. If there is a concept I don’t understand that’s a lynchpin to what I’m reading I go and read about that too. About the only media sources I do avoid are the major media outlets for the most part. Occasionally I’ll visit a CNN or MSNBC or Fox…but very rarely as it’s all usually a bunch of crap. Not only do I read the articles, I also read the comments…many times they have intelligent posters who understand the material better than I do and end up parsing it into easier to understand chunks of info that I can then piece together. Tons and tons of info from different sources and I form my opinions. No single media source works for me because they all have something theiy’re trying to sell.

        5 trillion dollars of debt and only 2-3 trillion dollars worth of assets does not add up…then throw in the fact that The Fed is literally BREAKING THE LAW constantly in order to “fix” the economy and Bernake and Paulson I believe flat out ROBBED the country to pay off the banks here and overseas. None of this also counts how our legislative and executive branches are also breaking/ignoring the laws daily. The American public doesn’t give a damn or know any better which is actually worse!

        None of this is relevant to the fact that basic studies in economics is really all you needed to tell you what was happening to the economy. Until all the bad debt is flushed from the economy, we’re going to have a very difficult time recovering. Hence we’re heading into a depression…

    • JiminyChristmas says:

      @grapedog: Did the bailout work? Well, that really depends on how you define ‘work.’

      The consensus seems to be, and it doesn’t matter if you listen to Hank Paulson or Paul Krugman, the financial crisis could have been much, much worse. But, just as you can’t prove a negative, you can’t really prove what ‘worse’ would been. Likewise, I think even most of those who agree that the bailout averted a worse situation don’t agree it was the most efficient or fair approach.

      • grapedog says:

        @JiminyChristmas: I agree, we don’t know what it would have been like since it didn’t happen and none of us, at least are going to admit, that we can see alternate futures.

        It’s my personal opinion that the non bailout route would have been quicker and hurt more, like a bandaid ripped off fast as opposed to the slow drawn out “process” we have now.

        Really…where has our money gone and what has it helped? The money to the auto industry was flat out wasted. People spent more time complaining about the bonuses AIG employees were getting instead of watching where all that money to AIG actually went.

        The way i see it now, and saw it then: the market WILL sort itself out, one way or another, and nothing is going to change that. Our politicians can only determine the length of that process at this point.

        • grapedog says:

          @grapedog: i meant to add to the bandaid analogy: quicker and hurt more but also recover much faster as opposed to the slow degrading, grinding process we are going through now where so many billions and trillions of dollars are just disappearing.

  8. packcamera says:

    Actually a bit of the footage from “Inside the Meltdown” was reused in this episode.

  9. Trai_Dep says:

    Knowledge brings power and Frontline is one of the most respected docu series out there. Kudos to Consumerist for trying to empower its readership!

  10. vastrightwing says:

    Am I the only one alive who thinks/knows that every time the government sticks it nose into anything it always costs me money? ‘Cause I think the whole mess was directly caused by our leadership. They knew about CDS (credit default swaps), they participated in making bad loans, they looked the other way when Madoff was bilking his “clients”, they encouraged the BoA/Merrill deal, they “bailed” out the banks, auto industry, etc, etc. It appears so egregious to me that our government officials are duplicitous in this whole mess that every time they say or do anything, I have to laugh at it because their charades are just too much for me to believe. I want to see BoA go out of business: I personally hate them and they are evil!

    • Trai_Dep says:

      @vastrightwing: But “The Government” is too coarse a group to use. You have to look at which factions were pushing for it. And those factions were (sigh, I sound like a broken record but until the rhetorical trick of blaming everyone for this ceases…) the Conservatives, in particular the Free Market Fundamentalists.
      If you don’t want to see it happen again (and again and…) then you need to properly focus.

      • grapedog says:

        @Trai_Dep: there is nothing wrong with a “free” market with some simple and minimal regulations. The Glass-Steagal act was perfect in that regard. It’s when the bankers, for years, lobbied and got it’s removal(1999 or 2000?) that it all started turning into an issue. A free market, left alone with minimal regulations, will sort itself out properly.

        The problem is we don’t, and haven’t, actually ever had a free market. The government has it’s fingers in to many pies. An actual free market wouldn’t benefit any particular businesses, unlike our government currently does. A free market will function just fine with minimal, intelligent, regulations.

      • hi says:

        @Trai_Dep: I also sound like a broken record everytime I have to correct people who still beleive the left/right paradigm. There are people at the top level who are not in the public spotlight (yet) who are wanting a one world currency. Just listen to Obamas speach a couple days ago… he said the only thing that would fix the economy is a world currency controlled by the world bank. Why? because they are fighting for a one world government with a one world currency. Watch it explained here with first lady/secretary of state Hillary Clinton committing treason:

        + Watch video

      • rorschachex says:

        @Trai_Dep: I agree, the “Government” is too coarse. I’ve learned, over the past 7 years, to fundamentally dislike the Federal Government. I think the Federal government is too protected from the backlash it causes due to the way our system is constructed and I still believe that local and state governments do much more for the average citizen than the federal government ever could.

  11. reservoir_dog says:

    I’m reminded of another Consumerist post from back in October. Worth reading again. []

  12. takes_so_little says:

    @grapedog: Condescend someplace else you pompous ass. Righteous indignation is never helpful.

    • grapedog says:

      @takes_so_little: I’m sorry, I’m not sure I understand what you are talking about.

      • drrictus says:

        @grapedog: Probably the “everyone else besides me has their head up their can” sentiment.

        I actually agree with you; while it’s possible the non-bailout route would have been worse, I’d rather roll those dice than the ones we’re rolling now.

        But, nobody asked me what to do.

  13. takes_so_little says:

    @grapedog: @grapedog: Of course not.

  14. Waverly V Phillips says:

    I’m going to check this one out during lunch today. Frontline does great investigative journalism and documentaries. I just watched the one on Bernie Madoff the other day. It’s amazing how he was able to con so many people for so long.