According to Thain's spokesperson, Jesse Derris of Sunshine Sachs Associates, the reason his client required the court to specifically order him to reveal which bonuses were paid to the top earners at Merrill was to avoid legal jeopardy. Thain and his lawyer had said that Bank of America had directed him not to disclose the information.
"He was always willing to answer the questions. He just didn't want to get into legal jeopardy." Derris said. Both Derris and Thain's lawyer, Andy Levander, told ABC News that Thain "had no horse in this race" and the disagreement was always between the Attorney General and Bank of America.
The New York Attorney General's office declined to publicly comment on the matter.
Thain had initially responded to a subpoena by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo on Thursday. However, during that all day session, he and his lawyer repeatedly declined to answer the questions Cuomo's top lawyer Benjamin Lawsky asked about the specific bonuses awarded to each of the top executives.
According to sources involved in the probe, Cuomo's office is seeking information about the individual awards of about 200 top employees. The top 14 got $250 million and the top 159 received over $858 million in bonuses. Overall, sources said, 694 employees at Merrill received bonuses in excess of $1 million. The bank's four top executives received $121 million.
The schedule agreed to by Merrill and Bank of America initially called for the bonuses to be awarded 60 percent "as a current cash bonus" and 40 percent as "a long-term incentive award in the form of equity or long term cash awards. According to sources familiar with the conversation, Alphin asked Thain to alter those terms to 70 percent cash and 30 percent equity or long term cash.
Bonuses aside, Thain became another symbol of corporate greed in the midst of a tanking economy when it was also disclosed that he had spent more than $1.2 million to redecorate his office, even as his firm struggled for its life.
Thain used the same celebrity decorator, Michael Smith, that the Obama family has retained to decorate the White House. According to Charlie Gasparino, CNBC's on air editor, who broke the story, the money Thain spent in part went for two area rugs ($131,000), two guest chairs ($87,000), a 19th Century credenza ($68,000), four pairs of curtains ($28,000), and a mahogany pedestal table ($25,000).
Also reported to be on the list was a trash can for $1,400.
Thain's attorney said he has agreed to reimburse the company for those charges.
"He agreed to pay back the cost of the furniture a month ago," Derris said. "We have requested in writing the cost of the furniture and will pay it back," Levander added.
Thain, who earned his MBA at Harvard, was named Chairman and CEO of Merrill in November 2007. The following January, the firm announced record-breaking losses of over $8 billion. By April the troubled investment bank had said it would lay off as much as 10 percent of its workforce.