On May 24, 2007 my world changed. It was not an entirely unexpected change, but it didn't knock the wind out of me any less. I guess no matter what the situation, we always believe we'll have more time.
My 29-year-11-months career at Merrill Lynch came to an end. I'd been an employee since 1978, went from High School Intern to AVP, then VP, then Director through that time. I was an active Member of the NY Stock Exchange, on behalf of Merrill on the Floor of the Exchange. I went through the 1987 Crash, the Internet Bubble Burst, the 9/11 Attack and the Sub-prime lending disaster. Somehow I'd always managed to get through. But automation had come to the Exchange. The Specialist scandal, which saw some people face criminal charges, the front-running fiasco which saw some brokers sent to jail, all brought about a call for change. One of the ironies for me is that I helped design the very system which essentially put me out of business.
But in late 2006, early 2007 I sort of sealed my fate for another reason. I needed three leg surgeries and a back surgery. (2 surgeries on right leg, 1 on left). A number of fellas, over the years, had to use disability time for injuries, surgeries and the like. Somehow, they were all let go shortly upon their return to work at Merrill Lynch. I remember at one point, Merrill did a purge of the upstairs trading desk, and coincidentally, all the women who were let go at the time were pregnant. But anyone who had used their disability insurance were shown the gate. Coincidence as well?
They sent a guy around the Exchange to tap guys on the shoulder one at a time. Each guy then walked to an upstairs office off the Exchange Floor, where they got their walking papers. The only thing that bugged me, truly, about this process, is that the guy they sent around to do the taps was one of the worst weasels I'd ever met. A guy who sold his soul to Merrill and who did anything it took to keep his job. There were other guys who could have been elected to be the Tapper. But, no matter.
I got my tap around 11 AM. It was funny because I was wearing leg braces and walking with crutches as I walked into the office. The HR person didn't look too comfortable with that. We got down to business. I asked them to skip the insincere expressions of regret and cut to the chase. I was given a deal that was somewhat generous, considering my time of service. They offered me 54 weeks salary.
I did a final lap around the Exchange Floor to say my goodbyes. Took a couple of photos for posterity and then went home. Very strange feeling, to say the least.