Bank of America Corp's chief executive and top federal officials will be asked by a Congressional panel to testify about claims that the bank was pressured by the government to complete its purchase of Merrill Lynch & Co, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing a person familiar with the investigation.
Investigators with the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform spent the last week looking at documents and notes from telephone conversations involving Federal Reserve officials, the Journal reported the person as saying.
Their findings suggest there's fire there, the newspaper quoted the source as saying.
The panel is chaired by New York Democrat Edolphus Towns, who could not be immediately reached for comment. A Bank of America spokesman declined to comment
Lawmakers on the House panel have not yet determined which U.S. officials will be called to testify under oath, the person familiar with the investigation told the Journal.
Top Treasury and Fed officials could be called to appear under oath, according to the Journal, citing the person familiar with the investigation.
The probe could touch a number of prominent government officials. In addition to former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, top aides for each could also face scrutiny as part of the investigation, the newspaper said on its website.
In a recent probe conducted by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Bank of America CEO Kenneth Lewis said he felt pressured by Paulson and Bernanke in December to accept a merger with Merrill or lose his job.
Lewis also testified, according to Cuomo, that Paulson and Bernanke pressured him to keep quiet about losses at Merrill, which rose to $12 billion from $9 billion in a matter of days in December.
On Tuesday, Bernanke told Congress' Joint Economic Committee that he did not pressure Lewis to withhold information from shareholders about Merrill's problems.
A spokeswoman for Paulson said on April 23 that Paulson had told Lewis that both the Treasury and the Fed believed there was no legal basis for Bank of America to terminate the deal.
(Reporting by Phil Wahba; editing by Carol Bishopric)