That was four months ago.
“Acquiring one of the premier wealth management, capital markets, and advisory companies is a great opportunity for our shareholders,” Bank of America Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ken Lewis said in a statement. “Together, our companies are more valuable because of the synergies in our businesses.”
Hours after receiving another government lifeline, Bank of America posted a fourth-quarter loss of $1.79 billion on Friday, down from net income of $268 million a year earlier, in a reversal caused largely by growing consumer loan losses.
And bigger troubles came from Merrill Lynch, which Bank of America hastily snapped up in September for $50 billion. A fresh round of write-downs at Merrill pushed that firm into a $15.3 billion loss for the fourth quarter. That was the firm’s sixth troubled quarter since the credit crisis began. Merrill was among the most aggressive — and most harmed — by mortgage investments.
In a conference call Friday morning, analysts asked Kenneth D. Lewis, the bank’s chairman, whether he had regrets that he had agreed to purchase Merrill.
Mr. Lewis said that as Merrill’s fourth-quarter losses mounted, he did re-evaluate whether he should close the deal and whether he could renegotiate the price for Merrill. But, he said, regulators implored him to complete the transaction and said they would provide support.
“The government was firmly of the view that terminating or delaying the closing of the transaction could lead to significant concerns and could result in significant systemic concerns,” Mr. Lewis said. “We did think we were doing the right thing for the country.”
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