Bank of America and Merrill together, forever changed

Examining deal forged in turmoil

The unlikely marriage of Bank of America Corp. and Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. brought with it the specter of a major culture clash, but the companies have managed to successfully transform each other.

Ten years ago, Merrill Lynch found itself on the path toward a sale when Stanley O’Neal resigned as chairman and CEO. The Oct. 30, 2007, resignation came less than a week after Merrill reported a $2.3 billion quarterly loss and a $7.9 billion write-down related to subprime exposure.

More losses and write-downs followed, and on Sept. 15, 2008, the day Lehman Brothers Inc. filed for bankruptcy, BofA announced it would buy Merrill. Regulators trying to quell the crisis essentially compelled the Charlotte, N.C.-based commercial bank to purchase the New York-based bulge bracket firm.

“The marriage of Merrill with Bank of America was a peculiar one to put it mildly,” said investment banker and Whalen Global Advisors LLC Chairman Chris Whalen.

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