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Merrill Brokers Chafe At BofA Over 'Principles'

Wednesday, 19 May 2010 | 3:02 PM ET

Bank of America has asked the Merrill Lynch brokers to abandon their "principles," according to several people familiar with the matter.

Merrill's "thundering herd" of financial advisers was acquired by Bank of America at the height of the financial crisis. But the two companies still have not worked out all the kinks in their relations, with many Merrill brokers still chafing under the new management.

One of the changes has been a company-wide move away from Merrill's "Principles" to Bank of America's "Core Values," one financial adviser explained.

The Merrill "Principles" were: Respect for the Individual, Teamwork, Integrity, Client Focus, Responsible Citizenship. In many brokerage offices around the country, those were literally hanging on the wall.

And now—at least in some of the Bank of America-Merrill offices—those principles are gone. They've been physically removed from the walls.

Some brokers were not even aware of the change until CNBC made inquiries. One said that the principles were hanging in the hallway.

But when he went to check, he discovered they had been taken down.

Not all the offices have been refurbished, of course. One office in Texas says there have been no changes at all. A spokeswoman for Merrill says that the brokers who spoke to CNBC about the change are misunderstanding the situation. She denied that Bank of America was changing the Merrill principles or removing them from the offices.

"If B of A didn't have them taken down, where did they go?" said another broker who was incredulous that the bank was denying the change.

Merrill's financial advisers may be over-interpreting simple office redecoration. But it's easy to see why they would suspect a campaign against the culture of Merrill. Bank of America initially banished the iconic Merrill bull from the merged company, only bringing it back after it realized it had made a tremendous blunder.

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