Thain's bane? Minor hit with harassment order
Halsey Minor says he was merely trying to warn Bank of America that it was getting a bad deal when it agreed to buy troubled investment bank Merrill Lynch, the firm that's now audaciously demanding that Minor return the $24 million or so that he borrowed. But in the spiral of litigation that followed that warning, he's now been hit with a court order that would prevent him from harassing parties to the litigation and those who would try to collect on his allegedly in-default personal loan.
The Hook says it's allegedly in-default because, Minor assures us, we may be next in line for a lawsuit after having, for a few hours at least, once portrayed another of Minor's loans–- for the trouble-plagued Landmark Hotel –-as "in default." Minor, naturally, contests the bank's portrayal of the situation and alleges that Silverton bank and the developer, Lee Danielson, both of whom he has sued, are the bad guys.
Pointing out bad guys, he says, is all he was trying to do last winter by warning Bank of America about the ways of Merrill's boss.
"You have no idea what John Thain has done," Minor warned BoA CEO Ken Lewis back in a December 30 email– weeks before the public realized that Thain was trying to sprinkle billions in bonuses on Merrill executives and that the taxpayers would be asked to pony up another $20 million to cover Merrill's toxic assets.
"It was sent before the closing," says Minor of his email to Lewis. "I look like a frigging clairvoyant."
Indeed, Minor is far from alone in alleging that the Charlotte-based BoA erred by buying Thain's money-losing Merrill. Things got worse in the New Year when Thain's bonus sprinkling became the topic of widespread outrage. And as a major new story in the Atlantic points out, the federal government strong-armed BoA into finishing the deal.
So, in denouncing Thain's company, Minor wasn't alone. But at the end of the court order, he is.
"Defendant Halsey McLean Minor is directed not to threaten, harass, or intimidate" anyone trying to collect the $24 million he borrowed from Merrill, reads the August 10 order signed by Judge Sidney H. Stein.
"It must be a pattern of harassment," concludes legal analyst David Heilberg.
Not so, says Minor, insisting that he merely sent a couple of emails to BoA big-wigs and also called his broker a "f–-ing a–h–-." The broker incited the mercurial Minor by allegedly verbally confirming that Minor had extra time to pay back the millions and then later caving to bank pressure by signing an affidavit saying otherwise.
"I felt totally betrayed and royally pissed," says Minor, urging a reporter to contact the broker for confirmation. The broker, Peter Arbogast, did not return phone calls by post time.
In his countersuit, Minor builds his case on that allegation that he arranged an oral modification of the loan's payback terms. But in a late-May motion for summary judgment, Merrill blasts the very idea–- and even slams Minor's argument for reading "like an answer to a law school exam, where the writer is asked to come up with a theory using every known defense in contract law." (The writer, Minor's New York attorney Lee Weiss, did not return a phone message.)
With Minor facing and waging litigation and/or liens on numerous fronts– from contractors, from auction houses, from Merrill, and from Danielson– it can be hard to understand whether he's a profligate bully or a Cassandra-like sage. In the case of Merrill, which appears to be costing taxpayers well over $100 billion, some might see a little of both.
"John Thain is killing your firm as I told you," he emailed BoA bossman Lewis again in early January. "As a result of John Thain, you guys are going [to] owe me a ton of money after suing me over his issues."
Since then, it's been shown that Thain's bonuses were pre-approved by BoA. Meanwhile, legal analyst Heilberg, is struck by the rarity of such a restraining order.
"That's so unusual," says Heilberg. "I can't imagine someone running to court because someone called them a name once. If that's all it took to get a restraining order, nobody would ever be able to get a divorce."
–last updated 6:33pm, Tuesday, September 8