Audit committee head defends Merrill Lynch to shareholders

The head of Merrill Lynch‘s
audit committee has defended the brokerage’s mortgage-related losses, following
some tough questions from shareholders at its annual meeting.

In a rare move for a non-executive director Ann Reese, responded directly to
a shareholder suggestion that the board must take some of the responsibility for
the credit crunch-inspired losses.

Reese, the former CFO at ITT Corp., said the board had ‘challenged the
exposure’ to the mortgage market and that the company’s stake in it hadn’t been
brought to the board’s attention until ‘late in the process’, according to the
Wall Street Journal.

Shareholder concerns were further allayed when Merrill announced it would be
maintaining its dividend despite the losses.

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