As was widely expected on Monday, Merrill Lynch & Company Tuesday morning announced the "immediate retirement" of Stan O'Neal as the company's Chief Executive Officer.

No immediate successor was named although it is widely speculated that Laurence Fink, chief executive of BlackRock Inc. had an inside edge.

O'Neal had announced last week that the company would suffer an $8.4 billion loss for the third quarter of 2007, the largest in the company's 94 year history. The bulk of the loss was directly attributable to Merrill's plunge into the subprime mortgage market, a move the O'Neal had championed.

In other news, an investor lawsuit has been filed against Merrill Lynch & Co contending that the company issued false and misleading statements regarding its exposure to risky mortgage investments, the plaintiffs' lawyers said on Tuesday.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, seeks class-action status on behalf of purchasers of Merrill stock between February 26 and October 23. The law firm of Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins LLP is handling the suit.