This excerpt taken from the BAC 8-K filed Feb 25, 2009.
Fair Value Measurements
Fair Value Hierarchy
In accordance with SFAS No. 157, Merrill Lynch has categorized its financial instruments, based on the priority of the inputs to the valuation technique, into a three-level fair value hierarchy. The fair value hierarchy gives the highest priority to quoted prices in active markets for identical assets or liabilities (Level 1) and the lowest priority to unobservable inputs (Level 3). If the inputs used to measure the financial instruments fall within different levels of the hierarchy, the categorization is based on the lowest level input that is significant to the fair value measurement of the instrument.
Financial assets and liabilities recorded on the Consolidated Balance Sheets are categorized based on the inputs to the valuation techniques as follows:
As required by SFAS No. 157, when the inputs used to measure fair value fall within different levels of the hierarchy, the level within which the fair value measurement is categorized is based on the lowest level input that is significant to the fair value measurement in its entirety. For example, a Level 3 fair value measurement may include inputs that are observable (Levels 1 and 2) and unobservable (Level 3). Therefore gains and losses for such assets and liabilities categorized within the Level 3 table below may include changes in fair value that are attributable to both observable inputs (Levels 1 and 2) and unobservable inputs (Level 3). Further, the following tables do not take into consideration the effect of offsetting Level 1 and 2 financial instruments entered into by Merrill Lynch that economically hedge certain exposures to the Level 3 positions.
A review of fair value hierarchy classifications is conducted on a quarterly basis. Changes in the observability of valuation inputs may result in a reclassification for certain financial assets or
liabilities. Level 3 gains and losses represent amounts incurred during the period in which the instrument was classified as Level 3. Reclassifications impacting Level 3 of the fair value hierarchy are reported as transfers in/out of the Level 3 category as of the beginning of the quarter in which the reclassifications occur. Refer to the recurring and non-recurring sections within this Note for further information on net transfers in and out.