Cuomo Says BofA Interfering with Bonus Investigation

NY AG wants bank to reveal who received hundreds of millions in bonuses.

ByABC News
March 6, 2009, 5:35 PM

March 11, 2009— -- In some of the harshest language to date in an already contentious fight over the public's right to know which Merrill Lynch high fliers netted hundreds of millions in bonuses on the eve of the failing firm's merger with Bank of America, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo accused the bank of undermining his authority, interfering with his investigation and attempting to influence the government's witnesses, according to court documents.

"Bank of America simply wants to play by a different set of rules from those applicable to any other subject of an investigation," Cuomo's office argued in papers filed today in New York State Supreme Court. The papers were filed in order to oppose Bank of America's motion to keep confidential the amounts of bonuses paid to top Merrill earners just weeks before its merger.

"Bank of America has cooperated with the attorney general's investigation into Merrill Lynch bonuses and will continue to do so," spokesman Scott Silvestri said in a statement. "Regarding the bonus information requested, Bank of America has continually offered to provide that information subject to reasonable confidentiality."

Cuomo's office today said that the bank has not demonstrated that it had ever "treated the information in a confidential manner."

The court paper's cited Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis' testimony in which Lewis acknowledged that he had never, in 40 years at BofA, ever instructed anyone to keep their compensation confidential.

"This is not peripheral information. It is directly relevant to the central unanswered question: Why were Merrill and Bank of America officers and directors determined to pay out these bonuses before the end of the year, despite all the precedents and prudence counseling against making these 11th hour payments?" the court papers stated.