Merrill Lynch, the 99-year-old firm known for its “thundering herd” of brokers pitching stocks to Main Street, may cease to exist as a legal entity more than four years after being acquired by Bank of America Corp.
While Bank of America will keep the Merrill Lynch brand for its retail brokerage and investment bank, the bank plans to dissolve the subsidiary as early as the fourth quarter, according to an Aug. 2 filing. The firm will assume all of Merrill Lynch's obligations and debt.
If the restructuring does occur, it is not expected to affect Merrill's advisers, company spokeswoman Susan McCabe said.
“There is a lot of confusion out there on this,” she wrote in an e-mail. “It has nothing to do with the Merrill Lynch brand.”
Merrill does business under its broker-dealer, Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner & Smith Inc. “There is no change there,” Ms. McCabe said.
The parent of MLPFS, Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc., is the entity that might be merged into Bank of America.
That Bank of America is considering folding Merrill Lynch into the bank was first disclosed in Merrill's first-quarter report last May.
“It's not a big deal if they don't change the brand,” said a Merrill adviser based in California, who asked not to be identified.
“It's sort of sad,” added another Merrill rep on the East Coast, who also asked not to be identified.
News that the change could happen as early as this year was added to the latest 10Q filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Bank of America, the second-biggest U.S. lender by assets, is simplifying its structure that emerged after chief executive Brian T. Moynihan's predecessor bought Merrill Lynch in 2009. Merging the legal entity could help Mr. Moynihan hit his $8 billion-a-year cost-cutting target and comply with regulators who want to make the biggest banks easier to deal with in a crisis.
This story was supplemented with reporting from Bloomberg News.