Commitments, Contingencies and Guarantees
|12 Months Ended|
Dec. 31, 2012
|Commitments and Contingencies Disclosure [Abstract]|
|Commitments, Contingencies and Guarantees||
Litigation and Regulatory Matters
In the ordinary course of business, Merrill Lynch and its subsidiaries are routinely defendants in or parties to many pending and threatened legal actions and proceedings, including actions brought on behalf of various classes of claimants. These actions and proceedings are generally based on alleged violations of securities, employment, contract and other laws. In some of these actions and proceedings, claims for substantial monetary damages are asserted against Merrill Lynch and its subsidiaries.
In the ordinary course of business, Merrill Lynch and its subsidiaries are also subject to regulatory examinations, information gathering requests, inquiries, investigations, and threatened legal actions and proceedings. Certain subsidiaries of Merrill Lynch are registered broker-dealers or investment advisors and are subject to regulation by the SEC, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”), the Financial Services Authority ("FSA") and other domestic, international and state securities regulators. In connection with formal and informal inquiries by those agencies, such subsidiaries receive numerous requests, subpoenas and orders for documents, testimony and information in connection with various aspects of their regulated activities.
In view of the inherent difficulty of predicting the outcome of such litigation and regulatory matters, particularly where the claimants seek very large or indeterminate damages or where the matters present novel legal theories or involve a large number of parties, Merrill Lynch generally cannot predict what the eventual outcome of the pending matters will be, what the timing of the ultimate resolution of these matters will be, or what the eventual loss, fines or penalties related to each pending matter may be.
In accordance with applicable accounting guidance, Merrill Lynch establishes an accrued liability for litigation and regulatory matters when those matters present loss contingencies that are both probable and estimable. In such cases, there may be an exposure to loss in excess of any amounts accrued. When a loss contingency is not both probable and estimable, Merrill Lynch does not establish an accrued liability. As a litigation or regulatory matter develops, Merrill Lynch, in conjunction with any outside counsel handling the matter, evaluates on an ongoing basis whether such matter presents a loss contingency that is probable and estimable. If, at the time of evaluation, the loss contingency related to a litigation or regulatory matter is not both probable and estimable, the matter will continue to be monitored for further developments that would make such loss contingency both probable and estimable. Once the loss contingency related to a litigation or regulatory matter is deemed to be both probable and estimable, Merrill Lynch will establish an accrued liability with respect to such loss contingency and record a corresponding amount of litigation-related expense. Merrill Lynch continues to monitor the matter for further developments that could affect the amount of the accrued liability that has been previously established. Excluding expenses of internal or external legal service providers, litigation-related expenses of $358 million were recognized for the year ended December 31, 2012, as compared with $740 million for the year ending December 31, 2011.
For a limited number of the matters disclosed in this Note for which a loss is probable or reasonably possible in future periods, whether in excess of a related accrued liability or where there is no accrued liability, Merrill Lynch is able to estimate a range of possible loss. In determining whether it is possible to provide an estimate of loss or range of possible loss, Merrill Lynch reviews and evaluates its material litigation and regulatory matters on an ongoing basis, in conjunction with any outside counsel handling the matter, in light of potentially relevant factual and legal developments. These may include information learned through the discovery process, rulings on dispositive motions, settlement discussions, and other rulings by courts, arbitrators or others. In cases in which Merrill Lynch possesses sufficient appropriate information to develop an estimate of loss or range of possible loss, that estimate is aggregated and disclosed below. There may be other disclosed matters for which a loss is probable or reasonably possible but such an estimate may not be possible. For those matters where an estimate is possible, management currently estimates the aggregate range of possible loss is approximately $0 to $650 million in excess of the accrued liability (if any) related to those matters. This estimated range of possible loss is based upon currently available information and is subject to significant judgment and a variety of assumptions, and known and unknown uncertainties. The matters underlying the estimated range will change from time to time, and actual results may vary significantly from the current estimate. Those matters for which an estimate is not possible are not included within this estimated range. Therefore, this estimated range of possible loss represents what Merrill Lynch believes to be an estimate of possible loss only for certain matters meeting these criteria. It does not represent Merrill Lynch's maximum loss exposure. Information is provided below regarding the nature of all of these contingencies and, where specified, the amount of the claim associated with these loss contingencies. Based on current knowledge, management does not believe that loss contingencies arising from pending matters, including the matters described herein, will have a material adverse effect on the consolidated financial position or liquidity of Merrill Lynch. However, in light of the inherent uncertainties involved in these matters, some of which are beyond Merrill Lynch's control, and the very large or indeterminate damages sought in some of these matters, an adverse outcome in one or more of these matters could be material to Merrill Lynch's results of operations or cash flows for any particular reporting period.
Auction Rate Securities ("ARS") Litigation
Since October 2007, ML & Co. and certain affiliates have been named as defendants in a variety of lawsuits and other proceedings brought by customers, both individual and institutional investors, and issuers regarding ARS. These actions generally allege that defendants: (i) misled plaintiffs into believing that there was a deeply liquid market for ARS, and (ii) failed to adequately disclose their or their affiliates' practice of placing their own bids to support ARS auctions. Plaintiffs assert that ARS auctions started failing from August 2007 through February 2008 when defendants and other broker-dealers stopped placing those "support bids." In addition to the matters described in more detail below, arbitrations and individual lawsuits have been filed against ML & Co. and certain affiliates by parties who purchased ARS and are seeking relief that includes compensatory and punitive damages and rescission, among other relief.
On September 4, 2008, two putative antitrust class actions were filed against ML & Co., Bank of America and other financial institutions in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Plaintiffs in both actions assert federal antitrust claims under Section 1 of the Sherman Act based on allegations that defendants conspired to restrain trade in ARS by placing support bids in ARS auctions, only to collectively withdraw those bids in February 2008, which allegedly caused ARS auctions to fail. In the first action, Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, Maryland v. Citigroup, Inc., et al., plaintiff seeks to represent a class of issuers of ARS that defendants underwrote between May 12, 2003 and February 13, 2008. This issuer action seeks to recover, among other relief, the alleged above-market interest payments that ARS issuers allegedly have had to make after defendants allegedly stopped placing "support bids" in ARS auctions. In the second action, Mayfield, et al. v. Citigroup, Inc., et al., plaintiff seeks to represent a class of investors that purchased ARS from defendants and held those securities when ARS auctions failed on February 13, 2008. Plaintiff seeks to recover, among other relief, unspecified damages for losses in the ARS' market value, and rescission of the investors' ARS purchases. Both actions also seek treble damages and attorneys' fees under the Sherman Act's private civil remedy. On January 25, 2010, the court dismissed both actions with prejudice and plaintiffs' respective appeals are currently pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
In Gail A. Cahaly, et al. v. Benistar Property Exchange Trust Company, Inc, et al., a matter filed on August 1, 2001, in Massachusetts Superior Court, Suffolk County, plaintiffs allege that MLPF&S aided and abetted a fraud and breach of fiduciary duty allegedly perpetrated by Benistar, a former client of MLPF&S. In 2002, following a trial, a jury rendered a verdict requiring MLPF&S to pay plaintiffs $8.6 million in compensatory damages. After the court granted MLPF&S's motion to vacate the verdict, the court granted plaintiffs' motion for a new trial. On June 25, 2009, the jury in the second trial found in favor of plaintiffs on all counts. Plaintiffs filed discovery-related sanctions motions, as well as a petition seeking attorneys' fees and costs. On January 11, 2011, the court issued rulings denying plaintiffs' request for sanctions and punitive damages but awarding consequential damages and attorneys' fees to plaintiffs in an amount not material to Merrill Lynch's results of operations. Plaintiffs and MLPF&S appealed the court's January 11, 2011 rulings on damages and sanctions. On December 26, 2012, plaintiffs and MLPF&S agreed to settle for an amount not material to Merrill Lynch's results of operations.
"Good Reason" Litigation
Since 2009, MLPF&S and certain affiliates have been named as defendants in lawsuits and arbitrations brought by former Merrill Lynch employees, primarily financial advisors, who participated in certain Merrill Lynch equity and contingent long term incentive compensation plans (the “Plans”). These actions generally allege that the former employees had "good reason" to resign as that term is defined under the change in control provisions of the applicable Plans and, as such, are entitled to immediate vesting and payment of forfeited awards and/or monetary sums under those Plans. In addition to litigation and arbitration, additional employees or their representatives have sent letters seeking payment directly from Merrill Lynch.
In addition, a putative class action was filed in October 2009, entitled Chambers, et al. v. Merrill Lynch & Co., et al., in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, seeking certification of a putative class of financial advisors and seeking damages and other payments under the good reason provisions of certain contingent incentive compensation plans. On November 26, 2012, the parties entered into an agreement to settle Chambers. The settlement amount has been fully accrued. On December 13, 2012, the court issued an order granting preliminary approval to the settlement and providing for notice to potential class members. The agreement is subject to the court's final approval. Other actions asserting good reason claims remain pending.
In re Bank of America Securities, Derivative and Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) Litigation
Beginning in January 2009, Bank of America, ML & Co. and/or certain of their current and former officers and directors, among others, were named as defendants in a variety of securities actions filed in federal courts in connection with securities filings by Bank of America and Merrill Lynch. The securities filings contained information with respect to events that took place from September 2008 through January 2009 contemporaneous with Bank of America's acquisition of Merrill Lynch (the "Acquisition"). Certain federal court actions were consolidated and/or coordinated in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York under the caption In re Bank of America Securities, Derivative and Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) Litigation (the "Consolidated Action").
The claims in these actions generally concern alleged material misrepresentations and/or omissions with respect to: (i) the Acquisition; (ii) the financial condition of and 2008 fourth-quarter losses experienced by Bank of America and Merrill Lynch; (iii) due diligence conducted in connection with the Acquisition; (iv) the terms of the Acquisition agreements regarding Merrill Lynch's ability to pay bonuses to Merrill Lynch employees of up to $5.8 billion for the year 2008; (v) Bank of America's discussions with government officials in December 2008, regarding Bank of America's consideration of invoking the material adverse change clause in the Acquisition agreement; (vi) Bank of America's discussions with government officials in December 2008 regarding the possibility of obtaining government assistance in completing the Acquisition; and/or (vii) the proxy statement and related materials for the Acquisition.
Plaintiffs ("Securities Plaintiffs") in the securities class action in the Consolidated Action (the “Consolidated Securities Class Action”), a consolidated class action pending in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, asserted claims under Sections 14(a), 10(b), and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”), and Sections 11, 12(a)(2) and 15 of the Securities Act of 1933 (the “Securities Act”) and asserted damages based on the drop in the stock price upon subsequent disclosures. In February 2012, the court granted a motion for class certification. On November 30, 2012, the parties entered into a settlement agreement. The agreement, which is subject to court approval, provides for a payment by Bank of America of $2.425 billion, and the institution and/or continuation of certain Bank of America corporate governance enhancements until the later of January 1, 2015 or eighteen months following the court's final approval of the settlement. In exchange, Securities Plaintiffs released their claims against all defendants and certain other persons or entities affiliated with defendants. On December 4, 2012, the court issued an order granting preliminary approval of the settlement and scheduling a final hearing for April 5, 2013.
Certain shareholders have opted to pursue Acquisition-related claims under the Exchange Act and/or Securities Act apart from the consolidated class action, and these individual actions have been coordinated for pre-trial purposes in the Consolidated Securities Class Action. These individual plaintiffs assert substantially the same facts and claims as the class action plaintiffs.
In 1999, MLIB acted as manager for a $284 million issuance of notes for an Italian library of movies, backed by future receivables to such movie rights. Mediafiction S.p.A (“Mediafiction”) was responsible for forwarding payments to MLIB for distribution to note holders. Following Mediafiction's bankruptcy, on July 18, 2006, MLIB filed an opposition before the Tribunal of the Court of Rome to have its claims recognized in the Mediafiction bankruptcy proceeding. Thereafter, Mediafiction filed a counterclaim seeking return of payments previously made to MLIB. In October 2008, the Court of Rome granted Mediafiction's counterclaim against MLIB in the amount of $137 million. While the matter was on appeal, on December 19, 2012, the parties settled for an amount not material to Merrill Lynch's results of operations.
Mortgage-Backed Securities ("MBS") Litigation
Merrill Lynch entities and their affiliates have been named as defendants in a number of cases relating to their various roles as issuer, originator, seller, depositor, sponsor, underwriter and/or controlling entity in MBS offerings, pursuant to which the MBS investors were entitled to a portion of the cash flow from the underlying pools of mortgages. These cases generally include actions by individual MBS purchasers. Although the allegations vary by lawsuit, these cases generally allege that the registration statements, prospectuses and prospectus supplements for securities issued by securitization trusts contained material misrepresentations and omissions, in violation of Sections 11, 12 and/or 15 of the Securities Act of 1933, Sections 10(b) and/or 20 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and/or state securities laws and other state statutory and/or common laws.
These cases generally involve allegations of false and misleading statements regarding (i) the process by which the properties that served as collateral for the mortgage loans underlying the MBS were appraised; (ii) the percentage of equity that mortgage borrowers had in their homes; (iii) the borrowers' ability to repay their mortgage loans; (iv) the underwriting practices by which those mortgage loans were originated; (v) the ratings given to the different tranches of MBS by rating agencies; and (vi) the validity of each issuing trusts' title to the mortgage loans comprising the pool for the securitization (collectively, “MBS Claims”). Plaintiffs in these cases generally seek unspecified compensatory damages, unspecified costs and legal fees and, in some instances, seek rescission. A number of other entities have threatened legal actions against Merrill Lynch and its affiliates concerning MBS offerings. On January 11, 2013, Merrill Lynch reached a settlement in principle to resolve claims concerning certain MBS offerings that the National Credit Union Administration (the "NCUA") had threatened to bring against Merrill Lynch and certain of its affiliates. The agreement is subject to the negotiation and execution of mutually agreeable settlement documentation and approval by the NCUA board. The settlement amount will be covered by existing reserves.
On August 8, 2011, American International Group, Inc. and certain of its affiliates (collectively, “AIG”) filed a complaint in New York Supreme Court, New York County, in a case entitled American International Group, Inc. et al. v. Bank of America Corporation et al. AIG has named, among others, Merrill Lynch and a number of its related entities as defendants. AIG's complaint asserts certain MBS Claims pertaining to 158 MBS offerings and two MBS private placements relating to Merrill Lynch entities, in which AIG alleges that it purchased securities between 2005 and 2007. AIG seeks rescission of its purchases or a rescissory measure of damages or, in the alternative, compensatory damages of not less than $10 billion, punitive damages and other unspecified relief. Defendants removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The district court denied AIG's motion to remand the case to state court.
On April 24, 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit granted plaintiffs' petition for leave to appeal the ruling of the district court in the Southern District of New York denying plaintiffs' motion to remand the case to the New York Supreme Court. The appeal is pending.
Federal Housing Finance Agency Litigation
On September 2, 2011, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (“FHFA”), as conservator for FNMA and Freddie Mac ("FHLMC"), filed complaints in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against Bank of America, Merrill Lynch-related entities, and certain current and former officers and directors of these entities. The actions are entitled Federal Housing Finance Agency v. Bank of America Corporation, et al. (the "FHFA Bank of America Litigation") and Federal Housing Finance Agency v. Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc., et al. (the "FHFA Merrill Lynch Litigation"). The complaints assert certain MBS Claims relating to MBS issued and/or underwritten by Bank of America, Merrill Lynch and related entities in 23 MBS offerings and in 72 MBS offerings, respectively, between 2005 and 2008 and allegedly purchased by either FNMA or FHLMC. The FHFA seeks among other relief, rescission of the consideration FNMA and FHLMC paid for the securities or alternatively damages allegedly incurred by FNMA and FHLMC, including consequential damages. The FHFA also seeks recovery of punitive damages in the FHFA Merrill Lynch Litigation action.
The FHFA Bank of America Litigation and the FHFA Merrill Lynch Litigation, along with fourteen other cases filed by the FHFA against other financial institutions, have been coordinated before a single judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. One action, FHFA v. UBS Americas, Inc., et al (the "UBS Action"), was designated the lead action with respect to allegations and claims common to the pending FHFA cases. On May 4, 2012, the court denied in part and granted in part a motion to dismiss in the UBS Action. The court subsequently denied motions to dismiss in the FHFA Merrill Lynch Litigation and the FHFA Bank of America Litigation on November 8, 2012 and November 28, 2012, respectively. On August 14, 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit granted the UBS defendants' application for an interlocutory appeal of the district court's ruling pertaining to the statute of repose on the federal and state securities law claims and the statute of limitations on the federal securities law claims asserted in the UBS Action. The FHFA has asserted similar claims in the FHFA Merrill Lynch Litigation and the FHFA Bank of America Litigation.
Merrill Lynch has received a number of subpoenas and other requests for information from regulators and governmental authorities regarding MBS and other mortgage-related matters, including inquiries, investigations and potential proceedings related to a number of transactions involving Merrill Lynch's underwriting and issuance of MBS and its participation in certain CDO offerings. These inquiries and investigations include, among others: an investigation by the SEC related to Merrill Lynch's risk control, valuation, structuring, marketing and purchase of CDOs, and an investigation by the New York State Attorney General concerning the purchase, securitization and underwriting of mortgage loans and MBS. Merrill Lynch has provided documents and testimony and continues to cooperate fully with these inquiries and investigations.
Merrill Lynch may also be subject to contractual indemnification obligations in the MBS matter discussed above.
Rosen Capital Partners LP & Rosen Capital Institutional LP's FINRA Arbitration
On May 28, 2008, two former hedge fund clients of Merrill Lynch Professional Clearing Corporation (“MLPCC”), Rosen Capital Partners LP and Rosen Capital Institutional LP (collectively, the "Rosen Funds"), filed a statement of claim asserting claims for breach of contract, fraud, and negligence against MLPCC in connection with alleged losses in the fall of 2008. On July 5, 2011, a FINRA panel awarded the Rosen Funds $64 million plus pre-judgment interest. On December 23, 2011, the California Superior Court granted the Rosen Funds' motion to confirm the award and on February 15, 2012 entered judgment on the award and pre-judgment interest, an amount that was fully accrued. On February 5, 2013, the Court of Appeal affirmed the decision of the California Superior Court.
At December 31, 2012, Merrill Lynch’s commitments had the following expirations:
Merrill Lynch enters into commitments to extend credit, predominantly at variable interest rates, in connection with corporate finance, corporate and institutional transactions and asset-based lending transactions. Clients may also be extended loans or lines of credit collateralized by first and second mortgages on real estate, certain liquid assets of small businesses, or securities. These commitments usually have a fixed expiration date and are contingent on certain contractual conditions that may require payment of a fee by the counterparty. Once commitments are drawn upon, Merrill Lynch may require the counterparty to post collateral depending upon creditworthiness and general market conditions. See Note 10 for additional information.
Commitments to extend credit are outstanding as of the date the commitment letter is issued and are comprised of closed and contingent commitments. Closed commitments represent the unfunded portion of existing commitments available for draw down. Contingent commitments are contingent on the borrower fulfilling certain conditions or upon a particular event, such as an acquisition. A portion of these contingent commitments may be syndicated among other lenders or the counterparty may replace the commitment with capital markets funding.
The contractual amounts of these commitments represent the amounts at risk should the contract be fully drawn upon, the client defaults, and the value of the existing collateral becomes worthless. The total amount of outstanding commitments may not represent future cash requirements, as commitments may expire without being drawn.
For lending commitments where the loan will be classified as held for sale upon funding, liabilities associated with unfunded commitments are calculated at the lower of cost or fair value, capturing declines in the fair value of the respective credit risk. For loan commitments where the loan will be classified as held for investment upon funding, liabilities are calculated considering both market and historical loss rates. Loan commitments either held by entities that apply the Broker-Dealer Guide or for which the fair value option was elected are accounted for at fair value.
Purchasing and Other Commitments
At December 31, 2012, Merrill Lynch had commitments to purchase loans of $1.3 billion, which, upon settlement of the commitment, will be included in trading assets, loans held for investment or loans held for sale. Such commitments totaled $2.5 billion at December 31, 2011. Merrill Lynch has also entered into agreements with providers of market data, communications, systems consulting, and other office-related services. At December 31, 2012 and December 31, 2011, minimum fee commitments over the remaining life of these agreements totaled $1.2 billion and $1.5 billion, respectively. Other purchasing commitments amounted to $0.8 billion and $1.0 billion at December 31, 2012 and December 31, 2011, respectively. In addition, Merrill Lynch had commitments to purchase partnership interests, primarily related to private equity and principal investing activities, at December 31, 2012 and December 31, 2011 of $0.1 billion and $0.3 billion, respectively.
In the normal course of business, Merrill Lynch enters into commitments for underwriting transactions. Settlement of these transactions as of December 31, 2012 would not have a material effect on the Consolidated Balance Sheet of Merrill Lynch.
In connection with trading activities, Merrill Lynch enters into commitments to enter into resale and securities borrowing and also repurchase and securities lending agreements.
Merrill Lynch has entered into various non-cancelable long-term lease agreements for premises that expire through 2028. Merrill Lynch has also entered into various non-cancelable short-term lease agreements, which are primarily commitments of less than one year under equipment leases.
At December 31, 2012, future non-cancelable minimum rental commitments are as follows:
Net rent expense for each of the last three years is presented below:
Merrill Lynch issues various guarantees to counterparties in connection with certain transactions. Merrill Lynch’s guarantee arrangements and their expiration at December 31, 2012 are summarized as follows (see Note 6 for information related to derivative financial instruments within the scope of Guarantees Accounting):
Standby Liquidity Facilities
Standby liquidity facilities are primarily comprised of liquidity facilities provided to certain unconsolidated municipal bond securitization VIEs. In these arrangements, Merrill Lynch is required to fund these standby liquidity facilities if certain contingent events take place (e.g., a failed remarketing) and in certain cases if the fair value of the assets held by the VIE declines below the stated amount of the liquidity obligation. The potential exposure under the facilities is mitigated by economic hedges and/or other contractual arrangements entered into by Merrill Lynch. Based upon historical activity, it is considered remote that future payments would need to be made under these guarantees.
Refer to Note 9 for further information.
Residual Value Guarantees
At December 31, 2012, residual value guarantees of $320 million consist of amounts associated with certain power plant facilities. Payments under these guarantees would only be required if the fair value of such assets declined below their guaranteed value. As of December 31, 2012, no payments have been made under these guarantees and the carrying value of the associated liabilities was not material, as (i) Merrill Lynch believes that the estimated fair value of such assets was in excess of their guaranteed value and/or (ii) there is a very remote risk of future payment pursuant to the remaining contractual provisions.
Standby Letters of Credit
At December 31, 2012, Merrill Lynch provided guarantees to certain counterparties in the form of standby letters of credit in the amount of $0.5 billion. Payment risk is evaluated based upon historical payment activity.
Representations and Warranties
In prior years, Merrill Lynch and certain of its subsidiaries, including First Franklin Financial Corporation ("First Franklin"), sold pools of first-lien residential mortgage loans and home equity loans as private-label securitizations (in a limited number of these securitizations, monolines insured all or some of the securities) or in the form of whole loans. Most of the loans sold in the form of whole loans were subsequently pooled into private-label securitizations sponsored by the third-party buyer of the whole loans. In addition, Merrill Lynch and First Franklin securitized first-lien residential mortgage loans generally in the form of mortgage-backed securities guaranteed by the government sponsored enterprises (the "GSEs"). In connection with these transactions, Merrill Lynch made various representations and warranties. These representations and warranties, as set forth in the agreements, related to, among other things, the ownership of the loan, the validity of the lien securing the loan, the absence of delinquent taxes or liens against the property securing the loan, the process used to select the loan for inclusion in a transaction, the loan's compliance with any applicable loan criteria, including underwriting standards, and the loan's compliance with applicable federal, state and local laws. Breaches of these representations and warranties may result in the requirement to repurchase mortgage loans or to otherwise make whole or provide other remedies to the GSEs, whole-loan investors, securitization trusts or monoline insurers (collectively, “repurchases”). In all such cases, Merrill Lynch would be exposed to any credit loss on the repurchased mortgage loans after accounting for any mortgage insurance or mortgage guarantee payments that it may receive.
Subject to the requirements and limitations of the applicable sales and securitization agreements, these representations and warranties can be enforced by the GSEs, the whole-loan investor, the securitization trustee, or others as governed by the applicable agreement or, in a limited number of first-lien and home equity securitizations where monoline insurers have insured all or some of the securities issued, by the monoline insurer, where the contract so provides. In the case of loans sold to parties other than the GSEs, the contractual liability to repurchase typically arises only if there is a breach of the representations and warranties that materially and adversely affects the interest of the investor, or investors, or of the monoline insurer (as applicable) in the loan. Contracts with the GSEs do not contain equivalent language. Merrill Lynch believes that the longer a loan performs prior to default, the less likely it is that an alleged underwriting breach of representations and warranties would have a material impact on the loan's performance. Historically, most demands for repurchase have occurred within the first several years after origination, generally after a loan has defaulted.
Merrill Lynch's credit loss would be reduced by any recourse it may have to originators (e.g., correspondents) that, in turn, had sold such loans to Merrill Lynch based upon its agreements with these originators. When a loan is originated by a correspondent or other third party, Merrill Lynch typically has the right to seek a recovery of related repurchase losses from that originator. Many of the correspondent originators of loans in 2004 through 2008 are no longer in business, or are in a weakened condition, and Merrill Lynch's ability to recover on valid claims is therefore impacted, or eliminated accordingly.
The fair value of the obligations to be absorbed under the representations and warranties provided is recorded as an accrued liability when the loans are sold. This liability for probable losses is updated by accruing a representations and warranties provision in Non-interest expenses on the Consolidated Statements of Earnings (Loss). This is done throughout the life of the loans, as necessary, when additional relevant information becomes available.
The estimate of the liability for representations and warranties exposures, and the corresponding estimated range of possible loss, is based upon currently available information, significant judgment, and a number of factors, including those discussed under "Liability for Representations and Warrranties" in this Note, that are subject to change. Changes to any one of these factors could significantly impact the estimate of the liability and could have a material adverse impact on Merrill Lynch's results of operations for any particular period. Given that these factors vary by counterparty, Merrill Lynch analyzes representations and warranties obligations based on the specific counterparty, or type of counterparty, with whom the sale was made.
Merrill Lynch has vigorously contested any request for repurchase when it concludes that a valid basis for repurchase does not exist and will continue to do so in the future. Merrill Lynch may reach settlements in the future if opportunities arise on terms it believes to be advantageous.
Bank of America's settlement (the “BNY Mellon Settlement”) with the Bank of New York Mellon, as trustee (the “Trustee”), is subject to final court approval and certain other conditions. On August 10, 2012, the court issued an order setting a schedule for discovery and other proceedings, and setting May 2, 2013 as the date for the final court hearing on the settlement to begin. Bank of America and Merrill Lynch are not parties to the proceeding. If final court approval is not obtained by December 31, 2015, Bank of America may withdraw from the BNY Mellon Settlement, if the Trustee consents. The BNY Mellon Settlement also provides that if trusts among the 525 first-lien and five second-lien non-GSE securitization trusts holding loans with an unpaid principal balance exceeding a specified amount are excluded from the final BNY Mellon Settlement, based on investor objections or otherwise, Bank of America has the option to withdraw from the BNY Mellon Settlement pursuant to the terms of the BNY Mellon Settlement agreement.
It is not currently possible to predict how many parties will ultimately object to the BNY Mellon Settlement, whether the objections will prevent receipt of final court approval or the ultimate outcome of the court approval process, which can include appeals and could take a substantial period of time. In particular, conduct of discovery and the resolution of the objections to the settlement and any appeals could take a substantial period of time and these factors could materially delay the timing of final court approval. Accordingly, it is not possible to predict when the court approval process will be completed.
There can be no assurance that final court approval of the BNY Mellon Settlement will be obtained, that all conditions to the BNY Mellon Settlement will be satisfied or, if certain conditions to the BNY Mellon Settlement permitting withdrawal are met, that Bank of America will not withdraw from the settlement. If final court approval is not obtained or if Bank of America withdraws from the BNY Mellon Settlement in accordance with its terms, Merrill Lynch's future representations and warranties losses could be substantially different than existing accruals and the estimated range of possible loss over existing accruals.
Unresolved Repurchase Claims
Unresolved representations and warranties repurchase claims represent the notional amount of repurchase claims made by counterparties, typically the outstanding principal balance or the unpaid principal balance at the time of default. In the case of first-lien mortgages, this amount is often significantly greater than the expected loss amount due to the benefit of collateral and, in some cases, mortgage insurance or mortgage guarantee payments. Claims received from a counterparty remain outstanding until the underlying loan is repurchased, the claim is rescinded by the counterparty, or the claim is otherwise resolved.
The notional amount of unresolved repurchase claims from private-label securitization trustees, whole-loan investors and others increased to $5.8 billion at December 31, 2012 compared with $1.1 billion at December 31, 2011. The increase in the notional amount of unresolved repurchase claims is primarily due to increases in submissions of claims by private-label securitization trustees; the level of detail, support and analysis impacting overall claim quality, and, therefore, claims resolution; and the lack of an established process to resolve disputes related to these claims. Merrill Lynch anticipated an increase in aggregate non-GSE claims at the time of the BNY Mellon Settlement in June 2011, and such increase in aggregate non-GSE claims was taken into consideration in developing the increase in Merrill Lynch's representations and warranties liability at that time. Although recent claims activity has been lower than anticipated, Merrill Lynch expects unresolved repurchase claims related to private-label securitizations to continue to increase as claims continue to be submitted by private-label securitization trustees, and there is not an established process for the ultimate resolution of claims on which there is a disagreement.
The table below presents unresolved representations and warranties claims by counterparty at December 31, 2012 and December 31, 2011. The unresolved repurchase claims include only claims where Merrill Lynch believes that the counterparty has a basis to submit claims. During the year ended December 31, 2012, Merrill Lynch received $4.8 billion of new repurchase claims, which consists of approximately $4.7 billion from private-label securitization trustees, $54 million from GSEs, $22 million from whole-loan investors and $17 million from monoline investors.
Of the $6,045 million of total unresolved repurchase claims as of December 31, 2012, Merrill Lynch believes that for $4,922 million, a valid defect has not been identified which would constitute an actionable breach of representations and warranties. The remaining $1,123 million of claims are in the process of review. When a claim has been denied and there has not been communication with the counterparty for six months, Merrill Lynch views these claims as inactive; however, they remain in the unresolved repurchase claims balance until resolution.
In addition to the total unresolved repurchase claims above, there are $1.3 billion in repurchase demands outstanding from a master servicer where Merrill Lynch believes the claimant has not satisfied the contractual thresholds to direct the securitization trustee to take action and/or that these demands are otherwise procedurally or substantively invalid. Merrill Lynch does not believe the $1.3 billion in demands received are valid repurchase claims, and therefore, it is not possible to predict the resolution with respect to such demands.
As presented in the table below, during the year ended December 31, 2012, Merrill Lynch paid $73 million to resolve $73 million of repurchase claims through repurchase or reimbursement to investors or securitization trusts for losses they incurred, resulting in a loss on the related loans at the time of repurchase or reimbursement of $62 million. During the year ended December 31, 2011, Merrill Lynch paid $58 million to resolve $62 million of repurchase claims through repurchase or reimbursement to investors or securitization trusts for losses they incurred, resulting in a loss on the related loans at the time of repurchase or reimbursement of $48 million. Cash paid for loan repurchases includes the unpaid principal balance of the loan plus past due interest. The amount of loss for loan repurchases is reduced by the fair value of the underlying loan collateral. The repurchase of loans and indemnification payments related to repurchase claims generally resulted from material breaches of representations and warranties related to the loans' material compliance with the applicable underwriting standards, including borrower misrepresentation, credit exceptions without sufficient compensating factors and non-compliance with underwriting procedures. The actual representations and warranties made in a sales transaction and the resulting repurchase and indemnification activity can vary by transaction or investor. A direct relationship between the type of defect that causes the breach of representations and warranties and the severity of the realized loss has not been observed.
(1) Represents unpaid principal balance.
Liability for Representations and Warranties
The liability for representations and warranties is included in Interest and other payables on the Consolidated Balance Sheets, and the related provision is included in Non-interest expenses on the Consolidated Statements of Earnings (Loss). The liability for representations and warranties is established when those obligations are both probable and reasonably estimable.
Merrill Lynch's estimated liability at December 31, 2012 for representations and warranties exposures and the corresponding range of possible loss considers, and is necessarily dependent on and limited by, a number of factors, including, depending on the counterparty, actual defaults, projected future defaults, historical loss experience, estimated home prices, other economic conditions, estimated probability that a repurchase claim will be received, including consideration of whether presentation thresholds will be met, number of payments made by the borrower prior to default and estimated probability that a loan will be required to be repurchased as well as other relevant facts and circumstances, such as bulk settlements, including those of its affiliates, and identity of the counterparty or type of counterparty, as Merrill Lynch believes appropriate.
Merrill Lynch's estimate of the non-GSE representations and warranties liability and the corresponding estimated range of possible loss considers, among other things, repurchase experience based on the BNY Mellon Settlement, and assumes that the conditions to the BNY Mellon Settlement will be satisfied and also takes into account more recent experience, such as claims and file requests, where relevant. Since the non-GSE securitization trusts that were included in the BNY Mellon Settlement differ from those that were not included in the BNY Mellon Settlement, Merrill Lynch adjusted the repurchase experience implied in the settlement in order to determine the estimated representations and warranties liability and the corresponding range of possible loss. The judgmental adjustments made include consideration of the differences in the mix of products in the securitizations, loan originator, likelihood of claims expected, the differences in the number of payments that the borrower has made prior to default, and the sponsor of the securitization. Where relevant, Merrill Lynch also takes into account more recent experience, such as increased claims and other facts and circumstances, such as bulk settlements, as Merrill Lynch believes appropriate.
Additional factors that impact the non-GSE representations and warranties liability and the portion of the estimated range of possible loss corresponding to non-GSE representations and warranties exposures include: (1) contractual material adverse effect requirements; (2) the representations and warranties provided; and (3) the requirement to meet certain presentation thresholds. The first factor is based on Merrill Lynch's belief that a non-GSE contractual liability to repurchase a loan generally arises only if the counterparties prove there is a breach of representations and warranties that materially and adversely affects the interest of the investor or all investors, or of the monoline insurer or other financial guarantor (as applicable), in a securitization trust, and accordingly, Merrill Lynch believes that the repurchase claimants must prove that the alleged representations and warranties breach was the cause of the loss. The second factor is based on the differences in the types of representations and warranties given in non-GSE securitizations from those provided to the GSEs. Merrill Lynch believes the non-GSE securitizations' representations and warranties are less rigorous and actionable than the explicit provisions of comparable agreements with the GSEs without regard to any variations that may have arisen as a result of dealings with the GSEs. The third factor is related to certain presentation thresholds that need to be met in order for any repurchase claim to be asserted on the initiative of investors under the non-GSE agreements. A securitization trustee may investigate or demand repurchase on its own action, and most agreements contain a presentation threshold, for example, 25% of the voting rights per trust, that allows investors to declare a servicing event of default under certain circumstances or to request certain action, such as requesting loan files, that the trustee may choose to accept and follow, exempt from liability, provided the trustee is acting in good faith. If there is an uncured servicing event of default and the trustee fails to bring suit during a 60-day period, then, under most agreements, investors may file suit. In addition to this, most agreements also allow investors to direct the securitization trustee to investigate loan files or demand the repurchase of loans, if security holders hold a specified percentage, for example, 25%, of the voting rights of each tranche of the outstanding securities.
Although Merrill Lynch continues to believe that presentation thresholds are a factor in the determination of probable loss, given the BNY Mellon Settlement, the estimated range of possible loss assumes that the presentation threshold can be met for all of the non-GSE securitization transactions. Claimants have come forward and Merrill Lynch believes it is probable that other claimants in certain types of securitizations may continue to come forward with claims that meet the requirements of the terms of the securitizations.
The table below presents a rollforward of the liability for representations and warranties and includes the provisions for representations and warranties exposures recorded in the years ended December 31, 2012 and December 31, 2011.
As a result of the BNY Mellon Settlement in the second quarter of 2011, Merrill Lynch determined that it had sufficient experience to record a liability of $2.7 billion in that period related to its exposure on certain private-label securitizations. Recent levels of claims and file requests with certain counterparties have been less than originally anticipated and, as a result, Merrill Lynch recorded a reduction to non-interest expenses of $754 million in the year ended December 31, 2012 that lowered the liability for representations and warranties exposures, as a portion of the loss was no longer deemed probable. The estimate of the liability for representations and warranties is based on currently available information, significant judgment and a number of other factors that are subject to change. Changes to any one of these factors could significantly impact the estimate of the liability and could have a material adverse impact on our results of operations for any particular period.
Estimated Range of Possible Loss
The representations and warranties liability represents Merrill Lynch's best estimate of probable incurred losses as of December 31, 2012. However, it is reasonably possible that future representations and warranties losses may occur in excess of the amounts recorded for these exposures. In addition, the BNY Mellon Settlement did not provide sufficient experience related to certain private-label securitizations sponsored by whole-loan investors. As it relates to certain private-label securitizations sponsored by whole-loan investors and certain whole loan sales, it is not possible to determine whether a loss has occurred or is probable and, therefore, no representations and warranties liability has been recorded in connection with these transactions.
Merrill Lynch currently estimates that the range of possible loss for representations and warranties exposures, consisting primarily of non-GSE exposures, could be up to $1.1 billion over accruals at December 31, 2012, an increase of $0.6 billion from December 31, 2011. The increase in the range of possible loss was primarily attributable to the reduction in Merrill Lynch's liability for representations and warranties exposures discussed above. The estimated range of possible loss related to these representations and warranties exposures does not represent a probable loss and is based on currently available information, significant judgment, and a number of assumptions, including those set forth below, that are subject to change.
Future provisions and/or ranges of possible loss for representations and warranties may be significantly impacted if actual experiences are different from Merrill Lynch's assumptions in its predictive models, including, without limitation, the ultimate resolution of the BNY Mellon Settlement, estimated repurchase rates, economic conditions, estimated home prices, consumer and counterparty behavior, and a variety of other judgmental factors. Adverse developments with respect to one or more of the assumptions underlying the liability for representations and warranties and the corresponding estimated range of possible loss could result in significant increases to future provisions and/or this estimated range of possible loss. For example, if courts, in the context of claims brought by private-label securitization trustees, were to disagree with Merrill Lynch's interpretation that the underlying agreements require a claimant to prove that the representations and warranties breach was the cause of the loss, it could significantly impact the estimated range of possible loss.
Additionally, if recent court rulings related to monoline litigation, including one related to an affiliate of Merrill Lynch, that have allowed sampling of loan files instead of requiring a loan-by-loan review to determine if a representations and warranties breach has occurred are followed generally by the courts in other monoline litigation, private-label securitization counterparties may view litigation as a more attractive alternative compared to a loan-by-loan review. Finally, although Merrill Lynch believes that the representations and warranties typically given in non-GSE transactions are less rigorous and actionable than those given in GSE transactions, Merrill Lynch does not have significant experience resolving loan-level claims in non-GSE transactions to measure the impact of these differences on the probability that a loan will be required to be repurchased.
The liability for representations and warranties exposures and the corresponding estimated range of possible loss do not consider any losses related to litigation matters disclosed herein, nor do they include any potential securities law or fraud claims or potential indemnity or other claims against Merrill Lynch. Merrill Lynch is not able to reasonably estimate the amount of any possible loss with respect to any such securities law, fraud or other claims against Merrill Lynch, except to the extent reflected in the aggregate range of possible loss for litigation and regulatory matters disclosed herein; however, such loss could be material.
Whole Loan Sales and Private-label Securitizations Experience
The majority of repurchase claims that Merrill Lynch has received are from private-label securitization trustees or whole-loan investors on loans sold by ML & Co.'s subsidiary, First Franklin. Merrill Lynch provided representations and warranties, and the whole-loan investors may retain those rights even when the loans were aggregated with other collateral into private-label securitizations sponsored by the whole-loan investors. Merrill Lynch reviews properly presented repurchase claims for these whole loans on a loan-by-loan basis. If, after Merrill Lynch's review, it does not believe a claim is valid, it will deny the claim and generally indicate a reason for the denial. When the counterparty agrees with Merrill Lynch's denial of the claim, the counterparty may rescind the claim. When there is disagreement as to the resolution of the claim, meaningful dialogue and negotiation between the parties are generally necessary to reach a resolution on an individual claim. Generally, a whole-loan investor is engaged in the repurchase process and Merrill Lynch and the whole-loan investor reach resolution, either through loan-by-loan negotiation or at times, through a bulk settlement. Although the timeline for resolution varies, once an actionable breach is identified on a given loan, settlement is generally reached as to that loan within 60 to 90 days. When a claim has been denied and Merrill Lynch does not have communication with the counterparty for six months, Merrill Lynch views these claims as inactive; however, they remain in the unresolved repurchase claims balance until resolution.
In private-label securitizations, certain presentation thresholds need to be met in order for investors to direct a trustee to bring repurchase claims. Merrill Lynch and its affiliates have had limited experience with loan-level private-label securitization repurchases as the number of valid repurchase claims received has been limited. In the year ended December 31, 2011, Merrill Lynch received $665 million of new repurchase claims from whole-loan and private-label securitization investors, predominately from private-label securitization trustees received in the fourth quarter of 2011. In the year ended December 31, 2012, Merrill Lynch received $4.7 billion of new repurchase claims, primarily from private-label securitization trustees. Over time, there has been an increase in requests for loan files from certain private-label securitization trustees. Merrill Lynch believes it is likely that these requests will lead to a continued increase in repurchase claims from private-label securitization trustees with standing to bring such claims. The representations and warranties, as governed by the private-label securitization agreements, generally require that counterparties have the ability to both assert a claim and actually prove that a loan has an actionable defect under the applicable contracts. While Merrill Lynch believes the agreements for private-label securitizations generally contain less rigorous representations and warranties and place higher burdens on investors seeking repurchases than the explicit provisions of comparable agreements with the GSEs, without regard to any variations that may have arisen as a result of dealing with the GSEs, the agreements generally include a representation that underwriting practices were prudent and customary. In the case of private-label securitization trustees, there is currently no established process in place for the parties to reach a conclusion on an individual loan if there is a disagreement on the resolution of the claim.
As of December 31, 2012, the notional amount of unresolved repurchase claims submitted by private-label securitization trustees or whole-loan investors was $5,805 million. Merrill Lynch has performed an initial review with respect to $4,696 million of these claims and does not believe a valid basis for repurchase has been established by the claimant, and is still in the process of reviewing the remaining $1,109 million of these claims.
Merrill Lynch provides guarantees to securities clearinghouses and exchanges. Under the standard membership agreement, members are required to guarantee the performance of other members. Under the agreements, if another member becomes unable to satisfy its obligations to the clearinghouse, other members would be required to meet shortfalls. Merrill Lynch’s liability under these arrangements is not quantifiable and could exceed the cash and securities it has posted as collateral. However, the potential for Merrill Lynch to be required to make payments under these arrangements is remote. Accordingly, no liability is carried in the Consolidated Balance Sheets for these arrangements.
In connection with its prime brokerage business, Merrill Lynch provides to counterparties guarantees of the performance of its prime brokerage clients. Under these arrangements, Merrill Lynch stands ready to meet the obligations of its customers with respect to securities transactions. If the customer fails to fulfill its obligation, Merrill Lynch must fulfill the customer’s obligation with the counterparty. Merrill Lynch is secured by the assets in the customer’s account as well as any proceeds received from the securities transaction entered into by Merrill Lynch on behalf of the customer. No contingent liability is carried in the Consolidated Balance Sheets for these transactions as the potential for Merrill Lynch to be required to make payments under these arrangements is remote.
In connection with its securities clearing business, Merrill Lynch performs securities execution, clearance and settlement services on behalf of other broker-dealer clients for whom it commits to settle trades submitted for or by such clients, with the applicable clearinghouse; trades are submitted either individually, in groups or series or, if specific arrangements are made with a particular clearinghouse and client, all transactions with such clearing entity by such client. Merrill Lynch’s liability under these arrangements is not quantifiable and could exceed any cash deposit made by a client. However, the potential for Merrill Lynch to be required to make unreimbursed payments under these arrangements is remote due to the contractual capital requirements associated with clients’ activity and the regular review of clients’ capital. Accordingly, no liability is carried in the Consolidated Balance Sheets for these transactions.
In connection with certain European mergers and acquisition transactions, Merrill Lynch, in its capacity as financial advisor, in some cases may be required by law to provide a guarantee that the acquiring entity has or can obtain or issue sufficient funds or securities to complete the transaction. These arrangements are short-term in nature, extending from the commencement of the offer through the termination or closing. Where guarantees are required or implied by law, Merrill Lynch engages in a credit review of the acquirer, obtains indemnification and requests other contractual protections where appropriate. Merrill Lynch’s maximum liability equals the required funding for each transaction and varies throughout the year depending upon the size and number of open transactions. Based on the review procedures performed, Merrill Lynch believes the likelihood of being required to pay under these arrangements is remote. Accordingly, no liability is recorded in the Consolidated Balance Sheets for these transactions.
In the course of its business, Merrill Lynch routinely indemnifies investors for certain taxes, including U.S. and foreign withholding taxes on interest and other payments made on securities, swaps and other derivatives. These additional payments would be required upon a change in law or interpretation thereof. Merrill Lynch’s maximum exposure under these indemnifications is not quantifiable. Merrill Lynch believes that the potential for such an adverse change is remote. As such, no liability is recorded in the Consolidated Balance Sheets.
The entire disclosure for commitments, contingencies, and guarantees.
No definition available.