CIT Group has chosen former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain to lead the company as chairman and CEO as the commercial lender continues to restructure its business following a brief stay in bankruptcy protection last year.

CIT Group Inc., one of the nation's largest lenders to small and mid-sized businesses, says Thain will take the helm immediately. He replaces acting interim CEO Peter J. Tobin, who will remain on CIT's board.

Thain served as chairman and CEO of Merrill Lynch until its sale to Bank of America was completed in January 2009. He resigned under pressure from the combined company after reports he rushed out billions in bonuses to Merrill employees in his final days as CEO, while the brokerage was suffering huge losses and just before Bank of America took it over.