In case you missed it, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was on Capitol Hill this morning making his caseregarding the Bank of America – Merrill Lynch deal. The Chairman stated in unequivocal terms that he did not pressure anyone. Rather, he stated that he cautioned Ken Lewis about the prudence of invoking a MAC clause and doubted whether Lewis could be successful in extracting himself from the deal (I agree that the MAC clause was not going to help BofA).
Whether Bernanke is justified in his defense is irrelevant at this juncture. What is relevant, however, is that the Bank of America – Merrill Lynch deal has become a central episode for political recriminations and posturing. As I said two weeks ago:
My take here is that the Bank of America case has become very political – and that means the blame game is going to be played. Someone — Bernanke, Lewis, Thain or Paulson — is going to take the fall. The knives are out.
Indeed, the knives are out and it is looking increasingly likely that Bernanke will be the scapegoat. Below is a Bloomberg News video with Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY), Chairman of the House Oversight Committee. If you listen to what Towns is saying, it does not look very good for Ben Bernanke.
Next on the hot seat: Hank Paulson.