Summary of Significant Accounting Policies
|12 Months Ended
Dec. 31, 2012
|Accounting Policies [Abstract]
|Summary of Significant Accounting Policies
Description of Business
Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. (“ML & Co.” and, together with its subsidiaries “Merrill Lynch”), provides investment, financing and other related services to individuals and institutions on a global basis through its broker, dealer, banking and other financial services subsidiaries. On January 1, 2009, Merrill Lynch was acquired by, and became a wholly-owned subsidiary of, Bank of America Corporation (“Bank of America”).
Its principal subsidiaries include:
Services provided to clients by Merrill Lynch and other activities include:
On November 1, 2012, in connection with an intragroup reorganization involving Bank of America and a number of its subsidiaries, Merrill Lynch acquired two affiliated companies and their respective subsidiaries from Bank of America. The acquisition was effected through a non-cash capital contribution from Bank of America. In accordance with Accounting Standards Codification (“ASC”) 805, Business Combinations (“Business Combinations Accounting”), the Consolidated Financial Statements include the historical results of the acquired affiliated companies and their subsidiaries as if the transaction had occurred on January 1, 2009, the date at which all the affected entities were first under the common control of Bank of America. Merrill Lynch has recorded the assets and liabilities acquired in connection with the transaction at their historical carrying values, which resulted in increases to stockholder's equity and receivables from Bank of America of approximately $13.5 billion, $9.1 billion and $9.0 billion as of December 31, 2012, 2011 and 2010, respectively.
Basis of Presentation
The Consolidated Financial Statements include the accounts of Merrill Lynch. The Consolidated Financial Statements are presented in accordance with U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (“U.S. GAAP”). Intercompany transactions and balances within Merrill Lynch have been eliminated. Transactions and balances with Bank of America have not been eliminated. Certain prior-period amounts have been reclassified in order to conform to the current period presentation.
The Consolidated Financial Statements are presented in U.S. dollars. Many non-U.S. subsidiaries have a functional currency (i.e., the currency in which activities are primarily conducted) that is other than the U.S. dollar, often the currency of the country in which a subsidiary is domiciled. Subsidiaries’ assets and liabilities are translated to U.S. dollars at year-end exchange rates, while revenues and expenses are translated at average exchange rates during the year. Adjustments that result from translating amounts in a subsidiary’s functional currency and related hedging, net of related tax effects, are reported in stockholder's equity as a component of accumulated other comprehensive (loss) income. All other translation adjustments are included in earnings. Merrill Lynch uses derivatives to manage the currency exposure arising from activities in non-U.S. subsidiaries. See the Derivatives section for additional information on accounting for derivatives.
Merrill Lynch offers a broad array of products and services to its diverse client base of individuals, small to mid-size businesses, employee benefit plans, corporations, financial institutions, and governments around the world. These products and services are offered from a number of locations globally. In some cases, the same or similar products and services may be offered to both individual and institutional clients, utilizing the same infrastructure. In other cases, a single infrastructure may be used to support multiple products and services offered to clients. When Merrill Lynch analyzes its profitability, it does not focus on the profitability of a single product or service. Instead, Merrill Lynch views the profitability of businesses offering an array of products and services to various types of clients. The profitability of the products and services offered to individuals, small to mid-size businesses, and employee benefit plans is analyzed separately from the profitability of products and services offered to corporations, financial institutions, and governments, regardless of whether there is commonality in products and services infrastructure. As such, Merrill Lynch does not separately disclose the costs associated with the products and services sold or general and administrative costs either in total or by product.
When determining the prices for products and services, Merrill Lynch considers multiple factors, including prices being offered in the market for similar products and services, the competitiveness of its pricing compared to competitors, the profitability of its businesses and its overall profitability, as well as the profitability, creditworthiness, and importance of the overall client relationships. Shared expenses that are incurred to support products and services and infrastructures are allocated to the businesses based on various methodologies, which may include headcount, square footage, and certain other criteria. Similarly, certain revenues may be shared based upon agreed methodologies. When evaluating the profitability of various businesses, Merrill Lynch considers all expenses incurred, including overhead and the costs of shared services, as all are considered integral to the operation of the businesses.
Merrill Lynch determines whether it is required to consolidate an entity by first evaluating whether the entity qualifies as a voting rights entity (“VRE”) or as a variable interest entity (“VIE”).
The Consolidated Financial Statements include the accounts of Merrill Lynch, whose subsidiaries are generally controlled through a majority voting interest or a controlling financial interest. On January 1, 2010, Merrill Lynch adopted accounting guidance on consolidation of VIEs, which has been deferred for certain investment funds managed on behalf of third parties if Merrill Lynch does not have an obligation to fund losses that could potentially be significant to these funds. Any funds meeting the deferral requirements will continue to be evaluated for consolidation in accordance with the prior guidance.
VREs — VREs are defined to include entities that have both equity at risk that is sufficient to fund future operations and have equity investors that have a controlling financial interest in the entity through their equity investments. In accordance with ASC 810, Consolidation (“Consolidation Accounting”), Merrill Lynch generally consolidates those VREs where it has the majority of the voting rights. For investments in limited partnerships and certain limited liability corporations that Merrill Lynch does not control, Merrill Lynch applies ASC 323, Investments — Equity Method and Joint Ventures (“Equity Method Accounting”), which requires use of the equity method of accounting for investors that have more than a minor influence, which is typically defined as an investment of greater than 3% to 5% of the outstanding equity in the entity. For more traditional corporate structures, in accordance with Equity Method Accounting, Merrill Lynch applies the equity method of accounting where it has significant influence over the investee. Significant influence can be evidenced by a significant ownership interest (which is generally defined as a voting interest of 20% to 50%), significant board of director representation, or other contracts and arrangements.
VIEs — Those entities that do not meet the VRE criteria are generally analyzed for consolidation as VIEs. A VIE is an entity that lacks equity investors or whose equity investors do not have a controlling financial interest in the entity through their equity investments. Merrill Lynch consolidates those VIEs for which it is the primary beneficiary. In accordance with Consolidation Accounting, Merrill Lynch is considered to be the primary beneficiary when it has a controlling financial interest in a VIE. Merrill Lynch has a controlling financial interest when it has both the power to direct the activities of the VIE that most significantly impact the VIE's economic performance and an obligation to absorb losses or the right to receive benefits that could potentially be significant to the VIE. Merrill Lynch reassesses whether it is the primary beneficiary of a VIE on a quarterly basis. The quarterly
reassessment process considers whether Merrill Lynch has acquired or divested the power to direct the activities of the VIE through changes in governing documents or other circumstances. The reassessment also considers whether Merrill Lynch has acquired or disposed of a financial interest that could be significant to the VIE, or whether an interest in the VIE has become significant or is no longer significant. The consolidation status of the VIEs with which Merrill Lynch is involved may change as a result of such reassessments.
In the normal course of business, Merrill Lynch has securitized commercial and residential mortgage loans; municipal, government, and corporate bonds; and other types of financial assets. Merrill Lynch may retain interests in the securitized financial assets by holding notes or other debt instruments issued by the securitization vehicle. In accordance with ASC 860, Transfers and Servicing (“Financial Transfers and Servicing Accounting”), Merrill Lynch recognizes transfers of financial assets where it relinquishes control as sales to the extent of cash and any other proceeds received.
Principal transactions revenue includes both realized and unrealized gains and losses on trading assets and trading liabilities, investment securities classified as trading investments and fair value changes associated with certain structured debt. These instruments are recorded at fair value. Fair value is the price that would be received to sell an asset or paid to transfer a liability in an orderly transaction between market participants. Gains and losses on sales are recognized on a trade date basis.
Commissions revenues include commissions, mutual fund distribution fees and contingent deferred sales charge revenue, which are all accrued as earned. Commissions revenues also include mutual fund redemption fees, which are recognized at the time of redemption. Commissions revenues earned from certain customer equity transactions are recorded net of related brokerage, clearing and exchange fees.
Managed account and other fee-based revenues primarily consist of asset-priced portfolio service fees earned from the administration of separately managed accounts and other investment accounts for retail investors, annual account fees, and certain other account-related fees.
Investment banking revenues includes fees for the underwriting and distribution of debt, equity and loan products and fees for advisory services and tailored risk management solutions, which are accrued when services for the transactions are substantially completed.
Earnings from equity method investments include Merrill Lynch’s pro rata share of income and losses associated with investments accounted for under the equity method of accounting.
Other revenues include gains (losses) on investment securities, including sales of available-for-sale securities, gains (losses) on private equity investments and other principal investments and gains (losses) on loans and other miscellaneous items.
Contractual interest received and paid, and dividends received on trading assets and trading liabilities, excluding derivatives, are recognized on an accrual basis as a component of interest and dividend revenues and interest expense. Interest and dividends on investment securities are recognized on an accrual basis as a component of interest and dividend revenues. Interest related to loans, notes, and mortgages, securities financing activities and certain short- and long-term borrowings are recorded on an accrual basis as interest revenue or interest expense, as applicable.
Use of Estimates
In presenting the Consolidated Financial Statements, management makes estimates including the following:
Estimates, by their nature, are based on judgment and available information. Therefore, actual results could differ from those estimates and could have a material impact on the Consolidated Financial Statements, and it is possible that such changes could occur in the near term. A discussion of certain areas in which estimates are a significant component of the amounts reported in the Consolidated Financial Statements follows:
Fair Value Measurement
Merrill Lynch accounts for a significant portion of its financial instruments at fair value or considers fair value in their measurement. Merrill Lynch accounts for certain financial assets and liabilities at fair value under various accounting literature, including ASC 320, Investments — Debt and Equity Securities (“Investment Accounting”), ASC 815, Derivatives and Hedging (“Derivatives Accounting”), and the fair value option election in accordance with ASC 825-10-25, Financial Instruments — Recognition (the “fair value option election”). Merrill Lynch also accounts for certain assets at fair value under applicable industry guidance, namely ASC 940, Financial Services — Broker and Dealers (“Broker-Dealer Guide”) and ASC 946, Financial Services — Investment Companies (“Investment Company Guide”).
ASC 820, Fair Value Measurements and Disclosures (“Fair Value Accounting”) defines fair value, establishes a framework for measuring fair value, establishes a fair value hierarchy based on the quality of inputs used to measure fair value and enhances disclosure requirements for fair value measurements.
Fair values for over-the-counter (“OTC”) derivative financial instruments, principally forwards, options, and swaps, represent the present value of amounts estimated to be received from or paid to a marketplace participant in settlement of these instruments (i.e., the amount Merrill Lynch would expect to receive in a derivative asset assignment or would expect to pay to have a derivative liability assumed). These derivatives are valued using pricing models based on the net present value of estimated future cash flows and directly observed prices from exchange-traded derivatives, other OTC trades, or external pricing services, while taking into account the counterparty’s creditworthiness, or Merrill Lynch’s own creditworthiness, as appropriate. When external pricing services are used, the methods and assumptions used are reviewed by Merrill Lynch. Determining the fair value for OTC derivative contracts can require a significant level of estimation and management judgment.
New and/or complex instruments may have immature or limited markets. As a result, the pricing models used for valuation often incorporate significant estimates and assumptions that market participants would use in pricing the instrument, which may impact the results of operations reported in the Consolidated Financial Statements. For instance, on long-dated and illiquid contracts extrapolation methods are applied to observed market data in order to estimate inputs and assumptions that are not directly observable. This enables Merrill Lynch to mark to fair value all positions consistently when only a subset of prices are directly observable. Values for OTC derivatives are verified using observed information about the costs of hedging the risk and other trades in the market. As the markets for these products develop, Merrill Lynch continually refines its pricing models to correlate more closely to the market price of these instruments. The recognition of significant inception gains and losses that incorporate unobservable inputs is reviewed by management to ensure such gains and losses are derived from observable inputs and/or incorporate reasonable assumptions about the unobservable component, such as implied bid-offer adjustments.
Certain financial instruments recorded at fair value are initially measured using mid-market prices which results in gross long and short positions valued at the same pricing level prior to the application of position netting. The resulting net positions are then adjusted to fair value representing the exit price as defined in Fair Value Accounting. The significant adjustments include liquidity and counterparty credit risk.
Merrill Lynch makes adjustments to bring a position from a mid-market to a bid or offer price, depending upon the net open position. Merrill Lynch values net long positions at bid prices and net short positions at offer prices. These adjustments are based upon either observable or implied bid-offer prices.
Counterparty Credit Risk
In determining the fair value of financial assets and financial liabilities, Merrill Lynch considers the credit risk of its counterparties, as well as its own creditworthiness. Merrill Lynch attempts to mitigate credit risk to third parties by entering into netting and collateral arrangements. Net counterparty exposure (counterparty positions netted by offsetting transactions and both cash and securities collateral) is then valued for counterparty creditworthiness and the resultant credit valuation adjustment ("CVA") is incorporated into the fair value of the respective instruments.
Fair Value Accounting also requires that Merrill Lynch consider its own creditworthiness when determining the fair value of certain instruments, including OTC derivative instruments (i.e., debit valuation adjustments or "DVA") and certain structured notes carried at fair value under the fair value option election. Merrill Lynch’s DVA is measured in the same manner as CVA. The impact of Merrill Lynch’s DVA is incorporated into the fair value of OTC derivative contracts even when credit risk is not readily observable in the instrument. For additional information on calculating CVA and DVA see Note 6.
Legal and Representations and Warranty Reserves
Merrill Lynch is a party in various actions, some of which involve claims for substantial amounts. Amounts are accrued for the financial resolution of claims that have either been asserted or are deemed probable of assertion if, in the opinion of management, it is both probable that a liability has been incurred and the amount of the loss can be reasonably estimated. In many cases, it is not possible to determine whether a liability has been incurred or to estimate the ultimate or minimum amount of that liability until the case is close to resolution, in which case no accrual is made until that time. Accruals are subject to significant estimation by management, with input from any outside counsel handling the matter.
In addition, Merrill Lynch and certain of its subsidiaries made various representations and warranties in connection with the sale of residential mortgage and home equity loans. Breaches of these representations and warranties may result in the requirement to repurchase mortgage loans or to otherwise make whole or provide other remedies. Refer to Note 14 for further information.
Merrill Lynch provides for income taxes on all transactions that have been recognized in the Consolidated Financial Statements in accordance with ASC 740, Income Taxes (“Income Tax Accounting”). Accordingly, deferred taxes are adjusted to reflect the tax rates at which future taxable amounts will likely be settled or realized. The effects of tax rate changes on deferred tax liabilities and deferred tax assets, as well as other changes in income tax laws, are recognized in net earnings in the period during which such changes are enacted. Valuation allowances are established when necessary to reduce deferred tax assets to the amounts that are more-likely-than-not to be realized. Pursuant to Income Tax Accounting, Merrill Lynch may consider various sources of evidence in assessing the necessity of valuation allowances to reduce deferred tax assets to amounts more-likely-than-not to be realized, including the following: 1) past and projected earnings, including losses, of Merrill Lynch and Bank of America, as certain tax attributes such as U.S. net operating losses (“NOLs”), U.S. capital loss carryforwards and foreign tax credit carryforwards can be utilized by Bank of America in certain income tax returns, 2) tax carryforward periods, and 3) tax planning strategies and other factors of the legal entities, such as the intercompany tax allocation policy. Included within Merrill Lynch’s net deferred tax assets are carryforward amounts generated in the U.S. and the U.K. that are deductible in the future as NOLs. Merrill Lynch has concluded that these deferred tax assets are more-likely-than-not to be fully utilized prior to expiration, based on the projected level of future taxable income of Merrill Lynch and Bank of America, which is relevant due to the intercompany tax allocation policy. For this purpose, future taxable income was projected based on forecasts, historical earnings after adjusting for the past market disruptions and the anticipated impact of the differences between pre-tax earnings and taxable income.
Merrill Lynch recognizes and measures its unrecognized tax benefits ("UTBs") in accordance with Income Tax Accounting. Merrill Lynch estimates the likelihood, based on their technical merits, that tax positions will be sustained upon examination considering the facts and circumstances and information available at the end of each period. Merrill Lynch adjusts the level of UTBs when there is more information available, or when an event occurs requiring a change. In accordance with Bank of America’s policy, any new or subsequent change in an unrecognized tax benefit related to a Bank of America state consolidated, combined or unitary return in which Merrill Lynch is a member will generally not be reflected in Merrill Lynch’s Consolidated Statement of Earnings (Loss) and Consolidated Balance Sheet. However, upon Bank of America’s resolution of the item, any material impact determined to be attributable to Merrill Lynch will be reflected in Merrill Lynch’s Consolidated Statement of Earnings (Loss) and Consolidated Balance Sheet. Merrill Lynch accrues income-tax-related interest and penalties, if applicable, within income tax expense.
Merrill Lynch’s results of operations are included in the U.S. federal income tax return and certain state income tax returns of Bank of America. The method of allocating income tax expense is determined under the intercompany tax allocation policy of Bank of America. This policy specifies that income tax expense will be computed for all Bank of America subsidiaries generally on a separate pro forma return basis, taking into account the tax position of the consolidated group and the pro forma Merrill Lynch group. Under this policy, tax benefits associated with NOLs (or other tax attributes) of Merrill Lynch are payable to Merrill Lynch generally upon utilization in Bank of America’s tax returns. See Note 17 for further discussion of income taxes.
Goodwill and Intangible Assets
Goodwill is the cost of an acquired company in excess of the fair value of identifiable net assets at the acquisition date. Goodwill is tested annually (or more frequently under certain conditions) for impairment at the reporting unit level in accordance with ASC 350, Intangibles — Goodwill and Other (“Goodwill and Intangible Assets Accounting”).
Intangible assets with definite lives consist primarily of value assigned to customer relationships. Intangible assets with definite lives are tested for impairment in accordance with ASC 360, Property, Plant, and Equipment, whenever certain conditions exist which would indicate the carrying amount of such assets may not be recoverable. Intangible assets with definitive lives are amortized over their respective estimated useful lives. Intangible assets with indefinite lives consist of value assigned to the Merrill Lynch brand and are tested for impairment in accordance with Goodwill and Intangible Assets Accounting. Intangible assets with indefinite lives are not amortized.
Merrill Lynch makes certain complex judgments with respect to its goodwill and intangible assets, including assumptions and estimates used to determine fair value. Merrill Lynch also makes assumptions and estimates in determining the useful lives of its intangible assets with definite lives. Refer to Note 11 for further information.
Cash and Cash Equivalents
Merrill Lynch defines cash equivalents as short-term, highly liquid securities, and interest-earning deposits with maturities, when purchased, of 90 days or less, that are not used for trading purposes.
Cash and Securities Segregated for Regulatory Purposes or Deposited with Clearing Organizations
Merrill Lynch maintains relationships with clients around the world and, as a result, it is subject to various regulatory regimes. As a result of its client activities, Merrill Lynch is obligated by rules mandated by its primary regulators, including the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) in the U.S. and the Financial Services Authority (“FSA”) in the U.K. to segregate or set aside cash and/or qualified securities to satisfy these regulations, which have been promulgated to protect customer assets. In addition, Merrill Lynch is a member of various clearing organizations at which it maintains cash and/or securities required for the conduct of its day-to-day clearance activities.
Securities Financing Transactions
Merrill Lynch enters into repurchase and resale agreements and securities borrowed and loaned transactions to accommodate customers and earn interest rate spreads (also referred to as “matched-book transactions”), obtain securities for settlement and finance inventory positions. Resale and repurchase agreements are generally accounted for as collateralized financing transactions and may be recorded at their contractual amounts plus accrued interest or at fair value under the fair value option election. In resale and repurchase agreements, typically the termination date of the agreements is before the maturity date of the underlying security. However, in certain situations, Merrill Lynch may enter into agreements where the termination date of the transaction is the same as the maturity date of the underlying security. These transactions are referred to as repo-to-maturity ("RTM") transactions. In accordance with applicable accounting guidance, Merrill Lynch accounts for RTM transactions as sales and purchases when the transferred securities are highly liquid. In instances where securities are considered sold or purchased, Merrill Lynch removes or recognizes the securities and, in the case of sales, recognizes a gain or loss, where applicable. At December 31, 2012 and December 31, 2011, Merrill Lynch had no outstanding RTM transactions that had been accounted for as sales and an immaterial amount of transactions that had been accounted for as purchases.
Resale and repurchase agreements recorded at fair value are generally valued based on pricing models that use inputs with observable levels of price transparency. Where the fair value option election has been made, changes in the fair value of resale and repurchase agreements are reflected in principal transactions revenues and the contractual interest coupon is recorded as interest revenue or interest expense, respectively. Resale and repurchase agreements are substantially collateralized and are not sensitive to credit risk. For further information refer to Note 4.
Merrill Lynch may use securities received as collateral for resale agreements to satisfy regulatory requirements such as Rule 15c3-3 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.
Securities borrowed and loaned transactions may be recorded at the amount of cash collateral advanced or received plus accrued interest or at fair value under the fair value option election. Securities borrowed transactions require Merrill Lynch to provide the counterparty with collateral in the form of cash, letters of credit, or other securities. Merrill Lynch receives collateral in the form of cash or other securities for securities loaned transactions. For these transactions, the fees received or paid by Merrill Lynch are recorded as interest revenue or expense. Securities borrowed and loaned transactions are substantially collateralized and are not sensitive to credit risk.
For securities financing transactions, Merrill Lynch’s policy is to obtain possession of collateral with a market value equal to or in excess of the principal amount loaned under the agreements. To ensure that the market value of the underlying collateral remains sufficient, collateral is generally valued daily and Merrill Lynch may require counterparties to deposit additional collateral or may return collateral pledged when appropriate. Securities financing agreements give rise to negligible credit risk as a result of these collateral provisions, and no allowance for loan losses is considered necessary.
Substantially all securities financing activities are transacted under master agreements that give Merrill Lynch the right, in the event of default, to liquidate collateral held and to offset receivables and payables with the same counterparty. Merrill Lynch offsets certain repurchase and resale transactions with the same counterparty on the Consolidated Balance Sheets where it has such a master agreement, that agreement is legally enforceable and the transactions have the same maturity date.
Merrill Lynch-owned securities pledged to counterparties where the counterparty has the right, by contract or custom, to sell or repledge the securities are disclosed parenthetically in trading assets or in investment securities on the Consolidated Balance Sheets.
In transactions where Merrill Lynch acts as the lender in a securities lending agreement and receives securities that can be pledged or sold as collateral, it recognizes an asset on the Consolidated Balance Sheets carried at fair value, representing the securities received (securities received as collateral), and a liability for the same amount, representing the obligation to return those securities (obligation to return securities received as collateral). The amounts on the Consolidated Balance Sheets result from such non-cash transactions.
Trading Assets and Liabilities
Merrill Lynch’s trading activities consist primarily of securities brokerage and trading; derivatives dealing and brokerage; commodities trading and futures brokerage; and securities financing transactions. Trading assets and trading liabilities consist of cash instruments (e.g., securities and loans) and derivative instruments. Trading assets also include commodities inventory.
Trading assets and liabilities are generally recorded on a trade date basis at fair value. Included in trading liabilities are securities that Merrill Lynch has sold but did not own and will therefore be obligated to purchase at a future date (“short sales”). Commodities inventory is recorded at the lower of cost or fair value. Changes in fair value of trading assets and liabilities (i.e., unrealized gains and losses) are recognized as principal transactions revenues in the current period. Realized gains and losses and any related interest amounts are included in principal transactions revenues and interest revenues and expenses, depending on the nature of the instrument.
A derivative is an instrument whose value is derived from an underlying instrument or index, such as interest rates, equity security prices, currencies, commodity prices or credit spreads. Derivatives include futures, forwards, swaps, option contracts and other financial instruments with similar characteristics. Derivative contracts often involve future commitments to exchange interest payment streams or currencies based on a notional or contractual amount (e.g., interest rate swaps or currency forwards) or to purchase or sell other financial instruments at specified terms on a specified date (e.g., options to buy or sell securities or currencies). All derivatives are accounted for at fair value. Refer to Note 6 for further information.
Investment securities consist of marketable investment securities and non-qualifying investments. Refer to Note 8 for further information.
Marketable Investment Securities
ML & Co. and certain of its non-broker-dealer subsidiaries follow the guidance within Investment Accounting for investments in debt and publicly traded equity securities. For Merrill Lynch, the trading classification under Investment Accounting generally includes those securities that are bought and held principally for the purpose of selling them in the near term, securities that are economically hedged, or securities that may contain a bifurcatable embedded derivative as defined in Derivatives Accounting. Securities classified as trading are marked to fair value through earnings. All other qualifying securities are classified as available-for-sale ("AFS") and are held at fair value with unrealized gains and losses reported in accumulated other comprehensive (loss) income (“OCI”).
Realized gains and losses on investment securities are included in current period earnings. For purposes of computing realized gains and losses, the cost basis of each investment sold is based on the specific identification method.
Merrill Lynch regularly (at least quarterly) evaluates each AFS security whose fair value has declined below amortized cost to assess whether the decline in fair value is other-than-temporary. A decline in a debt security’s fair value is considered to be other-than-temporary if it is probable that all amounts contractually due will not be collected or Merrill Lynch either plans to sell the security or it is more likely than not that it will be required to sell the security before recovery of its amortized cost. For unrealized losses on debt securities that are deemed other-than-temporary, the credit component of an other-than-temporary impairment is recognized in earnings and the non-credit component is recognized in OCI when Merrill Lynch does not intend to sell the security and it is more likely than not that Merrill Lynch will not be required to sell the security prior to recovery. Refer to Note 8 for further information.
Non-qualifying investments are those investments that are not within the scope of Investment Accounting and primarily include private equity investments accounted for at fair value and other equity securities carried at cost or under the equity method of accounting.
Private equity investments that are held for capital appreciation and/or current income are accounted for under the Investment Company Guide and carried at fair value. Additionally, certain private equity investments that are not accounted for under the Investment Company Guide may be carried at fair value under the fair value option election.
Merrill Lynch has non-controlling investments in the common shares of corporations and in partnerships that do not fall within the scope of Investment Accounting or the Investment Company Guide. Merrill Lynch accounts for these investments using either the cost or the equity method of accounting based on management’s ability to influence the investees, or Merrill Lynch may elect the fair value option. See the Consolidation Accounting section of this Note for more information.
For investments accounted for using the equity method, income is recognized based on Merrill Lynch’s share of the earnings or losses of the investee. Dividend distributions are generally recorded as reductions in the investment balance. Impairment testing is based on the guidance provided in Equity Method Accounting, and the investment is reduced when an impairment is deemed other-than-temporary.
For investments accounted for at cost, income is recognized when dividends are received, or when the investment is sold. Instruments are periodically tested for impairment based on the guidance provided in Investment Accounting, and the cost basis is reduced when an impairment is deemed other-than-temporary.
Loans, Notes and Mortgages, Net
Merrill Lynch’s lending and related activities include loan originations, syndications and securitizations. Loan originations include corporate and institutional loans, residential and commercial mortgages, asset-backed loans, and other loans to individuals and businesses. Merrill Lynch also engages in secondary market loan trading (see the Trading Assets and Liabilities section of this Note) and margin lending, which is included in Customer Receivables. Loans included in loans, notes, and mortgages are classified for accounting purposes as loans held for investment or loans held for sale.
Loans held for investment are generally carried at amortized cost, less an allowance for loan losses, which represents Merrill Lynch’s estimate of probable losses inherent in its lending activities. The fair value option election has been made for certain held-for-investment loans, notes and mortgages. Merrill Lynch performs periodic and systematic detailed reviews of its lending portfolios to identify credit risks and to assess overall collectability. These reviews, which are updated on a quarterly basis, consider a variety of factors including, but not limited to, historical loss experience, estimated defaults, delinquencies, economic conditions, credit scores and the fair value of any underlying collateral. Provisions for loan losses are included in interest and dividend revenue in the Consolidated Statements of Earnings (Loss).
Merrill Lynch’s estimate of loan losses includes judgment about collectability based on available information at the balance sheet date, and the uncertainties inherent in those underlying assumptions. While management has based its estimates on the best information available, future adjustments to the allowance for loan losses may be necessary as a result of changes in the economic environment or variances between actual results and the original assumptions.
In general, loans that are past due 90 days or more as to principal or interest, or where reasonable doubt exists as to timely collection, including loans that are individually identified as being impaired, are classified as non-performing unless well-secured and in the process of collection. Loans, primarily commercial, whose contractual terms have been restructured in a manner which grants a concession to a borrower experiencing financial difficulties are considered troubled debt restructurings ("TDRs") and are classified as non-performing until the loans have performed for an adequate period of time under the restructured agreement. Interest accrued but not collected is reversed when a commercial loan is considered non-performing. Interest collections on commercial loans for which the ultimate collectability of principal is uncertain are applied as principal reductions; otherwise, such collections are credited to income when received. Commercial loans may be restored to performing status when all principal and interest is current and full repayment of the remaining contractual principal and interest is expected, or when the loan otherwise becomes well-secured and is in the process of collection.
Loans held for sale are carried at lower of cost or fair value. The fair value option election has been made for certain held for sale loans, notes and mortgages. Estimation is required in determining these fair values. The fair value of loans made in connection with commercial lending activity, consisting mainly of senior debt, is primarily estimated using the market value of publicly issued debt instruments when available or discounted cash flows.
Nonrefundable loan origination fees, loan commitment fees, and “draw down” fees received in conjunction with held for investment loans are generally deferred and recognized over the contractual life of the loan as an adjustment to the yield. If, at the outset, or any time during the term of the loan, it becomes probable that the repayment period will be extended, the amortization is recalculated using the expected remaining life of the loan. When the loan contract does not provide for a specific maturity date, management’s best estimate of the repayment period is used. At repayment of the loan, any unrecognized deferred fee is immediately recognized in earnings. If the loan is accounted for as held for sale, the fees received are deferred and recognized as part of the gain or loss on sale in other revenues. If the loan is accounted for under the fair value option election, the fees are included in the determination of the fair value and included in other revenues.
Other Receivables and Payables
Customer Receivables and Payables
Customer securities transactions are recorded on a settlement date basis. Receivables from and payables to customers include amounts due on cash and margin transactions, including futures contracts transacted on behalf of Merrill Lynch customers. Securities owned by customers, including those that collateralize margin or other similar transactions, are not reflected on the Consolidated Balance Sheets.
Customer receivables and broker dealer receivables include margin loan transactions where Merrill Lynch will typically make a loan to a customer in order to finance the customer’s purchase of securities. These transactions are conducted through margin accounts. In these transactions the customer is required to post collateral in excess of the value of the loan and the collateral must meet marketability criteria. Collateral is valued daily and must be maintained over the life of the loan. Given that these loans are fully collateralized by marketable securities, credit risk is negligible and reserves for loan losses are only required in rare circumstances.
Brokers and Dealers Receivables and Payables
Receivables from brokers and dealers include amounts receivable for securities not delivered by Merrill Lynch to a purchaser by the settlement date (“fails to deliver”), margin deposits and commissions. Payables to brokers and dealers include amounts payable for securities not received by Merrill Lynch from a seller by the settlement date (“fails to receive”). Brokers and dealers receivables and payables additionally include amounts related to futures contracts on behalf of Merrill Lynch customers as well as net receivables or payables from unsettled trades.
Interest and Other Receivables and Payables
Interest and other receivables include interest receivable on corporate and governmental obligations, customer or other receivables, and stock-borrowed transactions. Also included are receivables from income taxes, underwriting and advisory fees, commissions and fees, and other receivables. Interest and other payables include interest payable for stock-loaned transactions, and short-term and long-term borrowings. Also included are amounts payable for employee compensation and benefits, income taxes, non-trading derivatives, dividends, other reserves, and other payables.
Equipment and Facilities
Equipment and facilities consist primarily of technology hardware and software, leasehold improvements, and owned facilities. Equipment and facilities are reported at historical cost, net of accumulated depreciation and amortization, except for land, which is reported at historical cost.
Depreciation and amortization are computed using the straight-line method. Equipment is depreciated over its estimated useful life, while leasehold improvements are amortized over the lesser of the improvement’s estimated economic useful life or the term of the lease. Maintenance and repair costs are expensed as incurred. Depreciation and amortization expense was $269 million, $422 million and $591 million for 2012, 2011 and 2010, respectively.
Other assets include deferred tax assets, the excess of the fair value of pension assets over the related benefit obligations, other prepaid expenses, and other deferred charges. Refer to Note 15 for further information.
In addition, real estate purchased for investment purposes is also included in other assets. Real estate held in this category may be classified as either held and used or held for sale depending on the facts and circumstances. Real estate held and used is valued at cost, less depreciation, and real estate held for sale is valued at the lower of cost or fair value, less estimated costs to sell.
Savings deposits are interest-bearing accounts that have no maturity or expiration date. Certificates of deposit are accounts that have a stipulated maturity and interest rate. However, depositors may recover their funds prior to the stated maturity but may pay a penalty to do so. In certain cases, Merrill Lynch enters into interest rate swaps to hedge the fair value risk in these deposits. The carrying amount of deposits approximates fair value.
Short- and Long-Term Borrowings
Short and long-term borrowings are carried at either the principal amount borrowed, net of unamortized discounts or premiums, adjusted for the effects of fair value hedges or fair value under the fair value option election.
Merrill Lynch issues structured debt instruments that have coupons or repayment terms linked to the performance of debt or equity securities, indices, currencies, or commodities, generally referred to as hybrid debt instruments or structured notes. The contingent payment components of these obligations may meet the definition in Derivatives Accounting of an embedded derivative. Structured notes are generally accounted for under the fair value option election (see Note 4).
Merrill Lynch uses derivatives to manage the interest rate, currency, equity, and other risk exposures of its borrowings. See Note 6 for additional information on the accounting for derivatives.
Merrill Lynch accounts for stock-based compensation expense in accordance with ASC 718, Compensation — Stock Compensation (“Stock Compensation Accounting”), under which compensation expense for share-based awards that do not require future service are recorded immediately, while those that do require future service are amortized into expense over the relevant service period. Further, expected forfeitures of share-based compensation awards for non-retirement-eligible employees are included in determining compensation expense.
New Accounting Pronouncements
In April 2011, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (the "FASB") issued new accounting guidance that addresses effective control in repurchase agreements and eliminated the requirement for entities to consider whether the transferor/seller has the ability to repurchase the financial assets in a repurchase agreement. This new accounting guidance was effective, on a prospective basis, for new transactions or modifications to existing transactions, on January 1, 2012. The adoption of this guidance did not have a material impact on Merrill Lynch's consolidated financial position or results of operations.
Effective January 1, 2012, Merrill Lynch adopted amendments from the FASB to Fair Value Accounting. The amendments clarify the application of the highest and best use, and valuation premise concepts, preclude the application of "blockage factors" in the valuation of all financial instruments and include criteria for applying the fair value measurement principles to portfolios of financial instruments. The amendments also prescribe additional disclosures for Level 3 fair value measurements and financial instruments not carried at fair value. The adoption of this guidance did not have a material impact on Merrill Lynch's consolidated financial position or results of operations.
Effective January 1, 2013, Merrill Lynch will be required to retrospectively adopt new accounting guidance from the FASB requiring additional disclosures on the effect of netting arrangements on an entity's financial position. The disclosures relate to derivatives and securities financing agreements that are either offset on the balance sheet under existing accounting guidance or are subject to a legally enforceable master netting or similar agreement. This new guidance addresses only disclosures, and accordingly will have no impact on Merrill Lynch's consolidated financial position or results of operations.
In December 2012, the FASB issued a proposed standard on accounting for expected credit losses. It would replace multiple existing impairment models, including an “incurred loss” model for loans, with an “expected credit loss” model. The FASB announced it would establish the effective date when it issues the final standard. Merrill Lynch cannot predict at this time whether or when a final standard will be issued, when it will be effective or what its final provisions will be. It is possible that the final standard could have a material adverse impact on Merrill Lynch's consolidated results of operations once it is issued and becomes effective.