CNBC's Gasparino: Merrill Lynch ID Theft May Affect 33,000 Employees

A "major identity-theft incident" has occurred at brokerage giant Merrill Lynch that may affect more than 30,000 employees, CNBC's Charlie Gasparino reported.

"A computer device apparently was stolen from [Merrill's] corporate offices in New Jersey," Gasparino said.

According to sources, the device contained sensitive personal information, including Social Security numbers, about some 33,000 employees of the financial firm.

The incident allegedly occurred approximately two weeks ago, but Merrill Lynch is "only today getting around to telling people," Gasparino said.

A spokesman for Merrill Lynch wouldn't confirm or deny the 33,000-employee figure, but a source at the firm said the number is correct.

In other news, Gasparino reported that Bear Stearns has filed for bankruptcy for two of its hedge funds -- and is attempting to have the bankruptcy proceedings moved offshore, to the Cayman Islands.

He explained Bear Stearns' motive as two-fold: besides the Caymans' famously pro-business legal structures, the investment bank also seeks to avoid a tough New York judge, who recently issued an $150 million judgement against Bear Stearns in another case.