6 of 20
BACKNEXT
6. Merrill Lynch
Merrill Lynch
Fortune 500 rank: 150
Loss: $27.6 billion

The big brokerage house survived 2008, but just barely, with the help of a last-second sale to Bank of America - and, of course, copious amounts of taxpayer funding. CEO John Thain spent the bulk of the year trying to shed bad bets from the Stan O'Neal days.

After Bear Stearns imploded in March and as Lehman Brothers was failing in September, Thain saw the writing on the wall and arranged a sale to BofA. But not satisfied with being the savior of Merrill's thundering herd of brokers, Thain demanded a fat bonus - and promptly got himself bounced by his new boss, BofA's Ken Lewis.

The news got even worse, with taxpayers forced to lend BofA billions of dollars to fill a hole created by some $30 billion in Merrill writedowns. Oh, and it turned out Thain spent $35,000 on an office toilet. Some hero.

NEXT: ConocoPhillips

Last updated April 21 2009: 3:34 PM ET
Top 50 Exxon Mobil pushes Wal-Mart aside to retake the No. 1 slot this year. Which other companies made the top 50 this year? More
They're hiring! As many big companies are announcing mass layoffs, these Fortune 100 employers have at least 150 openings each. More
Best big companies to work for See the 31 companies that made both the Fortune 1000 and Best Companies to Work For lists this year. More