The Observer proves it's bankers' bitch



If you ever doubted that The Charlotte Observer is the banking industry's bitch, take a look at the front page of today's business section.

The lead story, from Bloomberg News but with contributions by Observer writers, is about banking execs who "declined" bonuses this year. The article practically presents the bankers' action as some kind of goodwill gesture, with a New York executive head-hunter saying the execs are "acting the way they should for shareholders and for the public in general." The article gives short shrift to the widely reported demands of Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain — who led his company to disaster and being swallowed by BofA — for a $10 million bonus.

Thain's demands were the talk of political bloggers everywhere yesterday, and led to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stepping in to remind Thain & Co. that the federal bailout "was designed explicitly to limit executive compensation, bonuses and golden parachutes." Reid added, "While American families struggle to keep their jobs and their homes, I question the chutzpah of asking for a $10 million taxpayer-subsidized bonus."

What's the Observer's take on the Thain controversy? First, they dismissively call the brouhaha mere "reports" of Thain's demands. The, toward the end of the story, they get around to quoting a BofA spokesman who says the bank won't comment on Thain's battle with Merrill Lynch because "we are two independent companies." And that's it. No follow-up with Thain or Merrill-Lynch or anyone else. And this, keep in mind, is the lead story in the business section of the paper of record in one of the nation's leading banking centers.

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