Bank of America, the second-largest U.S. commercial bank, has begun offering free online stock trades for individual investors who deposit $25,000 or more at the bank. The free trading plan is effective immediately in the northeast U.S. and will become available nationwide by next spring. . .Mary Schapiro, who became NASD’s chairman and CEO September 1, wrote to members listing her priorities. Among these are revising the Sanctions Guidelines to clarify that a firm’s size and resources are considered when sanctions are imposed for misconduct, and establishing an Office of Member Relations, which will be responsible for maintaining open communication with member firms.

NASD fined New York’s Oppenheimer & Co. $800,000 for failure to respond to regulatory requests for information, failure to timely and accurately report thousands of municipal securities transactions, and failure to retain business-related internal e-mail. Oppenheimer is now also obligated to retain, at its own expense, outside counsel to review, modify, and enhance its supervisory procedures related to reporting municipal securities transactions and responding to regulatory requests for information.

BlackRock Inc. and Merrill Lynch Investment Management completed the merger of their investment management businesses. The new company has more than $1 trillion in assets under management and operates under the BlackRock name, with Laurence Fink as chairman and CEO.

The International Securities Exchange (ISE) plans to trade all of the companies that comprise the S&P 500 on its recently launched Midpoint Match platform. Midpoint Match is a continuous, fully automated, and anonymous platform that instantly executes orders at the midpoint price of the National Best Bid and Offer for the duration of the trading day.

Ameriprise Financial launched a new advertising campaign focusing on the over 78 million baby boomers. The broadcast ads feature people pursuing their retirement dreams and features the message, “Dreams don’t retire.” Dennis Hopper, a familiar actor to the generation, is featured in the spots.

The National Association of Independent Broker/Dealers (NAIBD) announced Oct. 9 its endorsements for candidates to the NASD’s eleven district governing committees. NAIBD is following up with a telephone and e-mail campaign to give its membership information on the elections, including naming those candidates who are NAIBD members or who are likely to support NAIBD’s positions.–Kara P. Stapleton