Those Tricky Merrill Losses

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The Financial Times reminds us today that those last minute Merrill losses almost derailed the Bank of America deal, and wonders how deeply our favorite exec was involved.

Bank of America was directly involved in markdowns that contributed to Merrill Lynch's $15.3bn loss in the last quarter of 2008, its final reporting period before the Wall Street bank was acquired by BofA, sources familiar with the matter say.
Mounting losses at Merrill during December almost derailed the acquisition. Ken Lewis, BofA's chief executive, threatened to walk away from the deal unless the US government provided $20bn in extra capital. The deal closed on January 1 after federal officials pledged their support.

And on those shifty credit default swaps?

Mr Cotty also gave his blessing to a $1bn writedown of credit default swaps involving investment grade companies. The markdown of a position on the "high vol 4" index transformed a gain of $100m into a loss of $900m, said a source familiar with the matter.

Ouch.
BofA linked to Merrill writedowns [The Financial Times]

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No One Told Ken Lewis Shareholders Needed To Know About Merrill's Massive Losses, Okay?

Remember in 2008, when Ken Lewis was all, “Oooh, wait, I don’t know about this Merrill Lynch thing, it looks kinda bad, I don’t think I want to buy it anymore, I’m nervous [bites nails, shifts weight from one foot to the other like he has to pee]” and tried to back out of the deal? And Hank Paulson threatened to stuff him in a meat locker if he did so Lewis said okay, fine, I’ll buy it and then did, without mentioning anything to shareholders about Merrill's impending losses? Well 1) People are still upset about it but 2) Ken was under the impression shareholders were on a need to know basis. Top executives at Bank of America Corp did not tell shareholders just prior to a 2008 vote on its purchase of Merrill Lynch & Co that losses were mounting and expected to weigh down earnings for years, papers filed in private shareholder litigation show. But the bank and former Chief Executive Kenneth Lewis said in their own court papers that they should not be liable to shareholders who claimed to have lacked information they needed to vote on the once $50 billion merger. Lewis also said he had been advised by the bank's law firm and chief financial officer that no disclosure was necessary. No further questions. BofA masked Merrill loss before 2008 vote: filings [Reuters]