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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Bank of America, Goldman Sachs Group, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo and Citigroup

   The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Bank of America, Goldman Sachs Group,
                  Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo and Citigroup

PR Newswire

CHICAGO, Sept. 26, 2012

CHICAGO, Sept. 26, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --Zacks.com announces the list of stocks
featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts
discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets.
Stocks recently featured in the blog include Bank of America Corporation
(NYSE:BAC), The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (NYSE:GS), Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS),
Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE:WFC) and Citigroup Inc. (NYSE:C).

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20101027/ZIRLOGO)

Get the most recent insight from Zacks Equity Research with the free Profit
from the Pros newsletter: http://at.zacks.com/?id=5513

Here are highlights from Tuesday's Analyst Blog:

Merrill Lynch Penalized by FINRA - Again

For the second time in the last few months, Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner &
Smith Inc. – a wholly owned subsidiary of Bank of America Corporation
(NYSE:BAC) – has been fined by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority
(FINRA). Merrill will pay $500,000 as penalty for its supervisory failure or
missing deadline for filing nearly 650 reports related to the brokers' updates
and details regarding customer complaints as well as settlements.

The FINRA stated that such failures occurred between 2005 and 2011. Also,
Merrill did not provide proper instructions nor did it supervise its employees
who were responsible for tracking and reporting such customer complaints. As a
result, these violations went unnoticed for years.

As per the FINRA rules, the brokerage firms are required to provide updated
information regarding its brokers including criminal and civil complaints as
well as regulatory actions against them along with the customer complaints and
settlements. Further, all the required information should be made available
within 30 days. In addition, the firms must submit a form while hiring a new
broker or when the broker leaves.

In case of Merrill, the FINRA commented that the breaches might have hampered
investors' ability to assess the background of some brokers through the
FINRA's public disclosure system – BrokerCheck. Further, the violations
hindered other brokerage firms' ability to conduct background checks while
hiring and lowered the ability of the regulators to review brokers' transfer
applications.

Earlier in June, the FINRA had penalized Merrill $2.8 million for supervisory
failures related to overcharging nearly 95,000 customers in unnecessary fees
and failure to provide certain required trade notices. While imposing the
fine, the FINRA stated that from April 2003 to December 2011 Merrill did not
have a proper system in place to check whether the customers were charged in
accordance to their contracts. This had resulted in $32 million of unwarranted
fees charged from the clients.

In the recent months, other Wall Street biggies whose units were penalized by
the FINRA for various rule violations include

The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.

(NYSE:

GS

),

Morgan Stanley

(NYSE:

MS

),

Wells Fargo & Company

(NYSE:

WFC

) and

Citigroup Inc.

(NYSE:

C

).

Though Merrill neither admitted nor denied the charges levied by the FINRA,
the penalty will somewhat dent the brokerage firm's goodwill. This is also
expected to marginally hamper its financial performance in the near term.

Currently, Bank of America retains a Zacks #3 Rank, which translates into a
short-term Hold rating. Also, considering the fundamentals, we maintain a long
term 'Neutral' recommendation on the stock.

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