The probe into the compensation issue was triggered by the disclosure that Merrill had, in consultation with Bank of America, accelerated its normal schedule for awarding the 2008 annual bonuses so that they were distributed in early December, weeks prior to early January 2009 merger with Bank of America. In past years those bonuses would have been awarded in 2009 -- after the merger occurred.
In 2008, Merrill had losses in excess of $27 billion and was on the verge of collapse. The merger with Bank of America spared Merrill, but between them, the two financial behemoths accepted $45 billion in public bailout funds.
When it was disclosed that 696 Merrill employees had received bonuses of more than $1 million, Cuomo's office sprung into action, launching a probe to determine whether any securities laws were broken.