New York AG wants ex-Merrill Lynch CEO to discuss bonuses

The Charlotte ObserverFebruary 23, 2009 

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo filed a petition in New York state court Monday asking that former Merrill Lynch & Co. chief executive John Thain be compelled to testify about bonuses issued to Merrill employees shortly before the firm's sale to Bank of America Corp. on Jan. 1.

In the court filing, Cuomo said that Thain refused last week to testify about the determination and amount of bonuses paid to all but five Merrill employees. Thain said his refusal was based on an instruction from Bank of America, the filing said.

In the filing, the New York attorney general said the Charlotte bank's instruction to Thain is interfering with an investigation "into the extent of Bank of America's involvement, at the highest levels, to award enormous bonuses to Merrill Lynch employees where billions in taxpayer money would be supporting the combined entity."

A Bank of America spokesman could not be immediately reached.

Cuomo said earlier this month that Bank of America acted with "apparent complicity" in Merrill's plan to pay $3.6 billion in bonuses earlier than usual in December. Bank of America has said those bonus decisions were made by Thain and other Merrill officials. Lewis ousted Thain in January after the bonus payments were made public and it was revealed that Merrill's losses were greater than previously anticipated.

The matter is under particular scrutiny because Bank of America received $20 billion in government funds in January to help stabilize its Merrill purchase.

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