The Day MER Died

Today is the last day that Merrill Lynch & Co will be traded on the New York Stock Exchange. When the exchange reopens on Monday, the symbol MER will no longer be listed due to its acquisition by Bank of America.

Merrill first went public in 1971, becoming the first member of the board of the NYSE to be listed on the exchange. Merrill Lynch was founded in 1914 and was one of the original popularizers of widespread financial market investing. On a Wall Street that was heavily populated with firms considered to have ethnic cores that were either WASP or Jewish, Merrill became known as the Catholic firm.

After a long history that included surviving the Great Depression, Merrill finally stumbled by investing heavily in mortgages and mortgage linked products. Many former and current Merrill employees believe that former CEO Stan O’Neal came to rely too heavily on the advice of Osman Semerci, who ran Merrill’s bond unit, and Ahmass L. Fakahany, the firm’s chief administrative officer who oversaw risk management. The trio loosened risk controls and silenced critics of the strategy.

Gretchen Morgenson’s report on the demise of Merrill, published way back in November, still makes for interesting reading for those who want more details on the death of this once proud Wall Street institution.


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