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SEC charges Merrill Lynch for overcharging customers for mortgage-backed securities

The Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday announced that Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc. will pay more than $15 million to settle charges that its employees misled customers, causing them to overpay for residential mortgage-backed securities. Merrill, now a division of Bank of America Corp. , will repay more than $10.5 million to clients and penalties of about $5.2 million. The SEC found that Merrill traders and salespeople deceived clients about how much the bank itself had paid to acquire the securities, and that the Merrill employees illegally profited from "excessive, undisclosed commissions." In some cases, the SEC said, those mark-ups were more than twice what clients should have paid.