Crash of the Titans

Greed, Hubris, the Fall of Merrill Lynch, and the Near-Collapse of Bank of America

Bank of America Settlement With SEC: Not Wrong, But Not Right, Either

A study released yesterday concerning the Securities & Exchange Commission's settlement with Bank of America over its acquisition of Merrill Lynch found that the SEC treated the bank with kid gloves because of the state of the U.S. economy at the time. The Merrill Lynch acquisition is the focus of "Crash of the Titans," the new book by journalist Greg Farrell. According to a story in today's Washington Post:

"The agency agreed to a settlement that was 'favorable' to the bank 'because of the nation's perilous economic situation at the time' and the fact that it had received billions of dollars in taxpayer aid, according to the report by the SEC's inspector general. Specifically, during settlement negotiations, Bank of America won relief from sanctions that could have hurt its investment banking business."

One reason the SEC brought suit against BofA was that the bank concealed that $6 billion in bonuses was to be paid to Merrill Lynch execs at the end of 2008, just prior to the acquisition being finalized — a story that Farrell broke in January 2009.  



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Author, Greg Farrell

GREG FARRELL is a correspondent for the Financial Times. In January 2009, he broke the news that Merrill Lynch had paid out its 2008 bonuses a month ahead of schedule, in December, even though Merrill was in the process of losing $28 billion for the year, and Bank of America needed an extra $20 billion in taxpayer funds to complete its acquisition of the firm. That story sparked an investigation by New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo. Greg is a past winner of the American Business Press’s Jesse Neal Award for investigative reporting and a recipient of the Knight-Bagehot Fellowship for business journalism. He earned a BA from Harvard University and an MBA from the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University.