Taking a Breather
When you're the head of one of the nation's largest banks and embroiled in a bitter merger fight, where do you go if you really need to get away? Phil Humann, the chairman and chief executive of SunTrust Banks Inc., picked the Galapagos Islands, an exotic locale off the coast of Ecuador that is known for its sea turtles and other wildlife.
Mr. Humann stole away to the remote Pacific islands this week for a bit of R&R to prepare himself for the final few weeks of SunTrust's campaign to stop Wachovia Corp.'s merger with First Union Corp. Mr. Humann has been leading a proxy fight, asking Wachovia shareholders to reject the merger at the Aug. 3 annual meeting so SunTrust can pursue its own merger with Wachovia.
A SunTrust spokesman was reluctant to discuss Mr. Humann's trip, though he insisted the company's earlier-than-usual earnings report last Friday had nothing to do with Mr. Humann's vacation plans.
Asked whether Mr. Humann was in the Galapagos, spokesman Barry Koling joked, "Leaping lizards, no comment." Then he defended Mr. Humann's decision to sneak away, insisting the chief executive would be watching developments in the merger battle from afar.
"While I would not comment on an executive's vacation plans, the fact is that nobody around here has gotten much of a vacation this summer," Mr. Koling said. "And if a very senior executive took a few days off, I'm sure he would be in very frequent touch and his location would be transparent as far as the process is concerned."
Mike Mayo, a Prudential Securities analyst who has been watching the merger fight, said, "I guess he's taking a final breather before the sprint."
Mr. Mayo, who has been to the Galapagos himself, said Mr. Humann would be pretty far from civilization. "If you want to get away, it's certainly one of the more remote sites."
Major League Event
Executives from Sovereign Bancorp rallied Tuesday on Broad Street outside of the New York Stock Exchange to celebrate the company's new listing on the Big Board.
Sovereign, a Philadelphia-based thrift company that has been trying to make itself more bank-like and boost its image in New England and the Middle Atlantic states, is the 19th company to leave the Nasdaq Stock Market for the New York Exchange this year, according to the exchange.
As is typical of such parties, Sovereign cloaked itself in some pretty American symbols. Dick Mohn, chairman of Sovereign, and president and chief executive officer Jay Sidhu took turns posing for cameras Tuesday with the company mascot, "Checks the Dog," and "Swoop," the mascot of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Chad Lewis, tight end for the Eagles, along with four of the Eagles' official cheerleaders and the Reading, Pa., high school marching band, added to the festivities. Passersby and traders on break lined the street waiting to catch green and white Sovereign footballs and hats being thrown into the crowd.
It was all fun and games until one trader jumped to catch a football and his orders, which had been neatly lining his shirt pocket, flew out and scattered over the ground.
Card Counsel at FTC
Joseph J. Simons, the newly appointed director of the Federal Trade Commission's competition bureau, will have to recuse himself from any investigations of the credit card association MasterCard International, an object of close scrutiny by the bureau over the past several years.
At his law firm, Clifford Chance Rogers & Wells, Mr. Simons acted as legal counsel to MasterCard. Lloyd Constantine, the plaintiffs' leading lawyer in a class-action brought by Wal-Mart and other U.S. merchants against MasterCard and Visa U.S.A., said Mr. Simons handled a couple of depositions on the case.
"Joe Simons is a very good lawyer, and I'm glad that he'll be working for the government instead of for MasterCard," Mr. Constantine said.
MasterCard and Visa are also the defendants in another antitrust suit, which germinated in the FTC and was eventually brought by the Justice Department. The Bush administration's newly appointed antitrust head, Charles A. James, might have a conflict of interest in Visa- and MasterCard-related cases because of an amicus brief filed for a card processing company during the Justice trial. Mr. James contributed to the brief while a partner at Jones Day Reavis & Pogue.