Merrill Bonus Money Must be Disclosed: Judge

NY Attorney General Cuomo wins battle with Bank of America

Wednesday, Mar 18, 2009  |  Updated 5:37 PM EDT
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Merrill Bonus Money Must be Disclosed: Judge

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A judge rules in favor of New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, demanding the release of the bonus information.

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A New York state judge on Wednesday ordered Bank of America Corp. to disclose information about bonuses given to employees at Merrill Lynch & Co. just before the bank bought the brokerage company.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and Bank of America have been sparring over the release of the information for weeks. Cuomo is investigating whether Bank of America and Merrill failed to provide proper disclosures to shareholders about the bonuses.

"Today's decision in the Bank of America case is a victory for taxpayers," Cuomo said in a statement Wednesday. "Let the sun shine in."

New York State Supreme Court Justice Bernard Fried ruled that the compensation figures didn't constitute a trade secret, as BofA had claimed.

Bank of America and the attorney general's office did not immediately comment on the ruling.

The judge's order reverses a temporary order keeping individual bonus information confidential. That order was put into place last month after Merrill's former CEO John Thain testified about the bonuses.

Bank of America bought New York-based Merrill Jan. 1.

Cuomo's office is trying to determine if Merrill and Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America failed to provide adequate disclosures to shareholders about the payouts, made in December, and the more than $15 billion in losses Merrill incurred in that quarter.

Merrill moved up its bonus payments to December from January to complete them before the sale to BofA.

"Bank of America chose litigation over transparency and we are gratified that this tactic has failed," Cuomo said in the statement. "AIG should take heed and immediately turn over the list of bonus recipients we have subpoenaed. The deadline for responding to our subpoena is tomorrow. More litigation is not the answer - it is time for AIG to come clean."

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