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Penn State Alums/Merrill Lynch Wealth Managers "Struggle" To Understand Why This Had To Happen To Them

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Two weeks back, former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was charged with 40 counts of sexual abuse perpetrated against young boys, including an alleged incident in which Sandusky raped a 10 year-old in the shower. Since then, even more victims have come forward, and it's been difficult to imagine how they're coping, particularly when Sandusky will only admit to "enjoying" young people, with whom he claims he has only ever touched on the leg (though not with sexual intent), hugged, showered and just generally "horsed around." Beyond the actual victims, which is to say, the people who were touched in highly inappropriate ways by a man 40 and 50 years their senior who was often times naked when doing so, we've also heard about the aftermath struggles of others affected (in their minds) by the alleged crimes, such as Joe Paterno, the PSU undergrads for whom getting drunk and watching sports on a Saturday has been ruined!!! and the school store, where merchandising sales have taken a hit.

And yet there is another group of people who, in the last couple weeks, have been overlooked. People who've had their entire worlds turned upside down. People for whom we should consider saying a prayer. Naturally, we speak of the legion of Merrill Lynch brokers who graduated from Penn State in the last several decades. How are they holding up? Barely hanging on by a thread here, is how.

The Penn State sex abuse scandal has prompted soul searching by many of its alumni on Wall Street -- but perhaps nowhere greater than at Merrill Lynch, where hundreds of Nittany Lions roam among the Thundering Herd. The shock waves from one of the nation's largest universities reached Wall Street when the school revealed a former football coach was accused of sexually abusing eight boys over a 15-year period...Penn State's shadow looms especially large at brokerage Merrill Lynch, where thousands of graduates followed the lead of William Schreyer, a 1948 graduate who rose through Merrill's ranks and served as its chief executive from 1985 to 1993.

"I'm still struggling with it," said one Northeast U.S. Merrill adviser, one of several brokers who said they were not authorized by the firm to speak on the matter. Another broker said he has had to field questions about the scandal from clients and colleagues...Officials at Bank of America, which snapped up Merrill during the 2008 financial crisis, played down the Penn State ties as immaterial in a company with 300,000 employees and hundreds of college recruiting relationships. They said the scandal would not change their hiring policy. Even so, the events of the past week delivered tough blows to current and former Merrill brokers. "It was shocking news. I didn't really want to believe the severity of the problem, and the potential involvement of other people, especially Joe Paterno," said Ryan Woodring, an independent financial adviser at Heritage Investment Partners in Summit, New Jersey, who graduated from Penn State in 1994.

And while they're trying to stay positive ("several graduates last week launched Proud to be a Penn Stater") and they know in their heart of hearts they will ultimately get through this ("just as Schreyer took to the airwaves to say Merrill was 'still bullish on America' one day after the Black Monday crash of 1987, Penn Staters at Merrill believe the school will recover from these dark times"), the outpouring of teras that show no sign of easing up make it difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Even the proudest alumni acknowledge it may take years to rebuild the school's reputation, and to get over their disappointment with their fallen heroes.

Just, give them a minute, please. This is a lot to handle right now.

Nittany Lions on Wall Street still licking wounds [Reuters]