Founded in 1914 by Charles Merrill, Merrill (officially Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc.), previously branded as Merrill Lynch, is a broker-dealer and registered investment adviser providing wealth management, securities trading and sales, corporate finance, and investment banking services worldwide.
In 1958, Merrill Lynch changed its name to Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc. and joined the board of the NYSE as the largest securities firm in the world (at the time). The firm went public in 1971 and in 1973 it became the first in the securities business to adopt a holding company format.
The firm, which is headquartered in New York City, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Bank of America, which purchased the firm in 2009, saving it from bankruptcy. Bank of America is the second-largest bank in the world by market capitalization. It has 4,600 retail banking offices serving clients in 150+ countries.
In 2019, Bank of America announced that Merrill Lynch would be rebranded to “Merrill.” Merrill’s brokers are licensed in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Financial Misconduct at Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc.
Merrill is licensed by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), and as such is legally obligated to ensure its brokers are acting lawfully in the interest of their investors. If a client suffers losses as a result of negligent behavior or misconduct from a broker, then the firm may be held legally responsible to repay the damages.
Merrill and brokers backed by Merrill have an extraordinarily long history of misconduct and complaints, with FINRA’s BrokerCheck report disclosing 1,468 regulatory events, civil events, and arbitrations.
In June 2022, Merrill was censured and ordered to pay approximately $15.2M, which included interest, after FINRA found that from January 2015 to January 2021, Merrill failed to detect and limit customers from purchasing too many Class C shares. Class C shares have higher ongoing fees compared with Class A shares that could have been purchased instead. All told, customers paid approximately $13.4M in excess sales charges and fees.
In September 2022, the SEC initiated a claim against Merrill, which was found (along with BOFA Securities, Inc.) to have failed to 1) maintain and preserve off-channel communications related to the business of the broker-dealers operated by both companies, in willful violation of part of the Securities Exchange Act; and 2) reasonably supervise their employees with a view to preventing or detecting certain of their employees with aiding and abetting violations of the Act. Merrill was censured and fined $125M.
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Meyer Wilson reclaimed $350 million for the victims of investment fraud or misconduct. Our attorneys are experienced in going up against the largest investment firms, such as Merrill, and our track record affirms our resources and expertise. Meyer Wilson has represented clients nationwide and internationally, in state and federal courts, and in securities arbitration. As an investor, you have a right to recover investments lost through unethical behavior or decisions made against your interests.