Merrill loses $15.84 billion in fourth quarter

NEW YORK Tue Feb 24, 2009 5:31pm EST

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Merrill Lynch & Co lost $15.84 billion in the fourth quarter, a regulatory filing showed, more than $500 million higher than the loss previously estimated by Bank of America Corp (BAC.N).

The quarterly loss equaled $9.95 per share for the period ended December 26, 2008, according to Merrill's annual report filed on Tuesday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Bank of America had on January 16 estimated that Merrill lost $15.31 billion in the fourth quarter.

Among the charges that Merrill Lynch took in the fourth quarter was a $2.3 billion goodwill writedown, mainly because of exposure in its fixed income, currencies, and commodities trading unit.

The bank acquired Merrill on January 1, 2009, creating the largest U.S. bank by assets. Later that month, Bank of America got a government bailout, including $20 billion of new capital, to help it absorb losses on some Merrill assets.

The size of Merrill's writedowns, combined with the roughly $3.6 billion of executive bonuses awarded to the company's executives late last year, has aroused political censure and regulatory investigations.

A judge on Monday ordered former Merrill Chief Executive John Thain to provide more information about executive bonuses.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Additional reporting by Dan Wilchins; Editing by Gary Hill)

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