Et Tu Brutus?

Whilst on holiday I’ve read the first two books in Conn Iggulden’s Emperor series. Merging fact and story telling, it has Julius Caesar as the main character from boyhood through his journey to the most famous Roman Emperor. Easy yet entertaining reading.

As most people know, Caesar was murdered by Senators in the Senate who stabbed him to death. His last words were reportedly aimed at his friend from boyhood, Brutus, who also wielded a knife against him.

I mention this in the context of the news from Merrill’s covered by Bloomberg here.

Stan O’Neal found out this month after the embattled chief executive officer delivered the worst news in the firm’s 93-year history.

The third-quarter loss of $2.24 billion, or $2.82 a share, was about six times more than O’Neal acknowledged on Oct. 5 and derived from $8.4 billion of writedowns for the subprime mortgages, asset-backed bonds and loans gone bad under his watch.

Merrill’s result, coming during a credit market shakeout that triggered a run on a British bank and caused Switzerland’s largest financial institution to fire its CEO, was the biggest quarterly debacle in the history of the securities industry. That was enough for the board of 11, nine of whom were handpicked by O’Neal during his five years as CEO, to make it clear the 56- year-old grandson of a former slave is leaving, possibly as early as today, according to a person with knowledge of the directors’ discussions.

As Gordon Gekko said in the film Wall Street, “If you want a friend, get a dog”. Loyalty goes so far, but in capital markets results go farther.

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