Last Hired, First Fired but Merrill Lynch’s Black CEO Had it Coming

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Given all the turmoil that’s been rocking the world of high finance, it wasn’t surprising to hear that the first head had been chopped off—E. Stanley O’Neal at Merrill Lynch. What was surprising was finding out that he was black and that no protest squads have been dispatched to demand he be reinstated.

I’m money-stupid so what finance news I get is inadvertent, sandwiched between things I actually pay attention to on the radio. If my friends at NPR discussed O’Neal’s race, it must have either been during a Manilow-moment or during mommy drive-time when I was rocking to “There’s a Hole In My Bucket.” Either way, it’s remarkable that someone who follows ‘black stuff’ for a living wasn’t hit over the head with discussions of the black CEO who got the boot, just with a CEO who got the boot. It’s progress that black robber-barons, while still rare, are common enough that we forget their race after the initial hooplah of mag covers, fawning profiles and NAACP Image Awards and it’s progress that, when they screw up, nobody black gives a damn. (Maybe that’s because making Wall Street money makes you ‘white,’ and therefore on your own when you screw up.)

If you want to flashback to your freshman year of college, check the World Socialist Web Site’s take on O’Neal and the evils of capitalism in general. Otherwise, check out Clarence Page on why black failure can sometimes equal black equality. As he notes:

O’Neal’s departure is a disappointment to those of us who praised his rise after 16 years at the company to become the first African-American to lead a major Wall Street firm. But just as his rise was a sign of progress, so is his slide out the door, as long as it indicates that women and minorities have to meet the same rigorous profitmaking standards that white men do. …America truly is a land where any kid can grow up to be president of, at least, a multibillion-dollar corporation.”

And where any kid can get his hat handed to him for screwing up.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate