Merrill Lynch (US)

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Merrill Lynch was widely regarded as one of the world's most prestigious financial management companies until it was undone during the course of 2008 by its investments in high-risk property derivatives. Unlike many of its competitors, Merrill Lynch had resisted the temptation to diversify into the mainstream consumer banking market in the early 2000s, specializing instead in the corporate and institutional market as an investment bank and asset manager. It was a leading global underwriter of debt and equity securities and a strategic advisor to corporations, governments, institutions and high net worth individuals. In one of its biggest ever deals it merged its investment management division in 2006 with that of fixed income specialist BlackRock to create a greatly enlarged giant with combined assets of around $1 trillion. However, in 2007 and 2008, Merrill was forced to report the worst financial results in its long history as a result of disastrous speculation in subprime debt. The bank hoped to put its troubles behind it by ousting its CEO and writing off billions of dollars of assets. But as the credit crisis continued to build, it was forced to surrender its independence in order to avoid bankruptcy. It was acquired by the more broadly based Bank of America for $50bn, and was absorbed into that business over the course of 2009. The Merrill Lynch brand has been used since then for BofA's commercial and wealth management units and for retail brokerage. However it is being phased out during 2019. Only wealth management will retain part of the tag, becoming simply Merrill.

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Capsule checked 1st November 2017

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