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Herbert Allison Jr. dies; oversaw government's bank bailout program

Herbert Allison Jr., the onetime president of Merrill Lynch & Co. who oversaw the U.S. government's bank-bailout program following the financial crisis that led to his former company becoming a unit of Bank of America Corp., has died. He was 69.

He died on July 14 at his home in Westport, Conn., of a possible heart attack, his son, Andrew, said yesterday in an interview.

Allison brought an insider's knowledge to the U.S. Treasury Department when in June 2009 he became assistant secretary for financial stability under Timothy Geithner, overseeing the Obama administration's changes to the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

He said he believed the largest U.S. banks had become too big and were serving too many different masters, even before the financial meltdown of 2008 froze credit and crashed markets.

"Because of Herb's extensive experience and sound leadership, TARP became one of the most successful financial rescue programs ever created, and our nation avoided a second Great Depression," Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said yesterday.

Allison's 28-year tenure at Merrill Lynch, starting fresh out of business school at Stanford University, seemed destined to end with him as chief executive. He settled for the company presidency when, in January 1995, then-CEO Daniel Tully named David Komansky as his successor. Four years later, in 1999, he resigned after being informed he would not become CEO.

From 2002 to 2008, he was chairman and CEO of New York- based TIAA-CREF, a retirement-plan investment manager for teachers and others in academic, research, medical and cultural fields.

In 2008 he accepted then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's invitation to become CEO of Fannie Mae, the government-sponsored mortgage-finance provider, which had been placed under government conservatorship due to losses from the collapse of the subprime mortgage market.

President Barack Obama nominated Allison to run the Treasury Department office overseeing the $700 billion rescue of the U.S. banking system. He was confirmed by the Senate in June 2009.

Allison stepped down on Sept. 30, 2010, as the Treasury Department was shutting down the spending phase of the TARP program.

Though highly unpopular politically, the TARP program ended on a positive note, with the Obama administration reporting the $700 billion rescue plan would actually cost taxpayers about $50 billion on a net basis.

A Pittsburgh native, Allison graduated from Yale in 1965 with a bachelor's degree in philosophy. He entered the U.S. Navy as a commissioned officer in 1965 and served a tour in Vietnam. He left the Navy in 1969 as a lieutenant.

Allison joined Merrill Lynch after earning his MBA from Stanford in 1971.

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