Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch wealth-management unit was fined $2.8 million by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority for overbilling customers by $32.2 million over an eight-year period.
Merrill Lynch charged the fees to about 95,000 accounts between April 2003 and December 2011, FINRA said in a statement today. New York-based Merrill Lynch, which was acquired by Bank of America in 2009, lacked an adequate supervisory system to ensure that customers were billed in accordance with their contracts and disclosure documents, the regulator said.
“Investors must be able to trust that the fees charged by their securities firm are, in fact, correct,” Brad Bennett, FINRA’s chief of enforcement, said in the statement. “When this is not the case, investor confidence is threatened.”
Bill Halldin, a spokesman for Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America, said the charges were largely “the result of improper coding of accounts,” which the firm discovered on its own.
“We have improved our systems to address these issues and we have reimbursed affected clients,” he said in a telephone interview.
FINRA also faulted Merrill Lynch for failing over a four-year period to send 10.6 million trade confirmations to 230,000 customers.