House panel demands Merrill Lynch documents from BofA

Charlotte ObserverSeptember 21, 2009 

A Congressional committee is demanding Bank of America Corp. turn over more documents today about its Merrill Lynch & Co. acquisition, including information the Charlotte bank has said is protected by attorney-client privilege.

In a letter Friday to chief executive Ken Lewis, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Edolphus Towns, said Congress has the right to reject the assertion of attorney-client privilege. The New York Democrat asked that all relevant documents be delivered by noon Monday.

"We're working closely with the committee to try and resolve the issues they have," bank spokesman Scott Silvestri said. "We have provided a lot of documents and will continue to do so."

A committee spokeswoman said the bank did not comply by the noon deadline.

The committee is one of the many governmental entities investigating the Merrill deal. In particular, lawmakers and regulators are concerned about the bank's lack of disclosure to shareholders last year about Merrill bonuses and rising fourth-quarter losses.

In his letter, Towns also criticized the bank for responding to his August request for documents by providing hundreds of pages of "irrelevant" materials. This included e-mails from employees praising Lewis for his "awesome" performance on "60 Minutes," notices of employee discounts at Wal-Mart and notice of an annual Pecan sale. While blacking out information in many of the documents, the bank failed to hide personal customer information in others, the letter said.

Towns is set to meet with Bank of America's strategy and marketing executive Anne Finucane on Tuesday, a committee aide confirmed. The bank requested the meeting.


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