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Pain of Thain Falls Mainly on Merrill

“I wouldn’t have taken the Merrill job,” he said in an interview. “I think that’s probably the single biggest thing.”

Mr. Thain’s comments are some of his sharpest yet about life as Merrill Lynch & Co.’s chairman and chief executive. He arrived at the securities firm's headquarters in lower Manhattan in late 2007 as the financial crisis was brewing. Within a year, Merrill was forced into a shotgun marriage with Bank of America Corp. A few months later, Mr. Thain was out.

“I regret having to sell Merrill Lynch to Bank of America,” he said.

Few executives at the top of financial firms that sank during the crisis have reflected publicly on what happened. Most of them withdrew from the spotlight. The 58-year-old Mr. Thain now runs CIT Group Inc., a lender to small and medium-size businesses, which shows how much has changed for him in the past five years.”

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