It looks like Andrew Cuomo has escalated things in the Merrill Lynch bonus probe.
Cuomo is now accusing the firm of misleading Congress on the matter. In a court filing made yesterday, according to the Wall Street Journal, Cuomo included a November 24th letter, sent by Merrill to a House oversight committee, assuring lawmakers that no decisions on yearly bonuses had yet been made. Cuomo also filed testimony from a Merrill director, saying that on November 11th, the firm’s compensation committee had decided that Merrill would pay bonuses in December, rather than January, when bonuses were usually paid (and when the firm would be under the control of Bank of America.)
Cuomo is trying to convince a judge to force Bank of America to disclose information about who got the bonuses — which the company has so far been refusing to do.
The House Oversight committee, chaired at the time by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), had asked Merrill for information on the bonuses, as part of an effort to ensure that the firm wasn’t using bailout money for compensation.
There’s another interesting nugget in the Journal’s report:
Mr. Cuomo also disclosed that John Thain, Merrill’s chairman and chief executive, was told that he would lose any chance of succeeding Kenneth Lewis as CEO of Bank of America if Mr. Thain kept pressing Merrill directors last fall for a 2008 bonus of as much as $40 million.
“He was told very strongly that you should not do that; that you would damage yourself with the Bank of America board if you do that, and if you ever wanted a chance to be in the running for my job, then that would eliminate it,” Mr. Lewis said in his testimony last month, according to the filing.
Thain soon lost his chance to succeed Lewis anyway, as he was ousted in mid January amid anger over the bonuses and Merrill’s massive fourth quarter losses.