The Thundering Herd Laid Low: A Merrill Lynch Timeline

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January 23, 2009 10:18 a.m.

Key moments in the Merrill Lynch saga over the last year:

December 1, 2007 – John Thain begins his tenure as Merrill Lynch CEO, replacing Stanley O’Neal who had resigned after the company announced billion-dollar losses stemming form its mortgage investments.

John ThainSeptember 15, 2008 – A deal is announced for Bank of America to buy Merrill, which, for the previous four quarters, has posted losses totaling $17 billion. The deal comes amid a broader financial crisis connected to the mortgage meltdown: that same day, Lehman Brothers declares the largest bankruptcy in American history, and the following day, American International Group is essentially nationalized.

October 14, 2008 – Bank of America gets $25 billion in bailout funds.

December 5, 2008 – Merrill and Bank of America shareholders vote to approve the takeover.

Ken LewisDecember 8, 2008 – Merrill’s compensation committee approves payouts to staff totaling $3-4 billion, at least a month ahead of schedule. Some at B of A complain that the accelerated schedule was an effort to ensure that B of A could not cut the payments when it took over January 1.

Days later – Bank of America learns that Merrill’s fourth-quarter losses were greater than expected. B of A begins lobbying the federal government for more TARP money to ease the takeover.

December 29, 2008 – Merrill bonuses paid, in the nick of time (sub. req.).

January 1, 2009 – Bank of America officially takes control of Merrill. It will later rename its brokerage division Merrill Lynch Wealth Management.

Henry PaulsonJanuary 16, 2009 – Treasury announces it will give Bank of America another $20 billion in TARP money, to help it absorb the larger-than-expected Merrill losses.

January 16, 2009 – Bank of America reports a fourth quarter loss of $1.79 billion, including a $15.3 billion loss (sub. req.) posted by Merrill Lynch for the same quarter.

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