New York state's top legal officer issued subpoenas on Wednesday to seven executives who received tens of millions of dollars in 2008 pay from Merrill Lynch & Co before it was taken over by Bank of America
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is seeking information from the executives who were rewarded with millions of dollars in cash and stock even as Merrill's net loss swelled to $27.6 billion last year.
The names of some of Merrill's top earners and their compensation were published by the Wall Street Journal in Wednesday's editions, citing documents and interviews.
Last month, Cuomo's lawyers took testimony under oath from former Merrill head John Thain and Bank of America CEO Kenneth Lewis, part of a probe into whether the firm broke securities laws on public disclosure of executive pay.
The pay, mostly in bonuses, has become a hot-button issue in the recession as banks and companies fail. The New York attorney general's office began its probe last October. It is investigating $3.6 billion in bonuses paid by Merrill before it merged with Bank of America Corp.
We want the executives to testify under oath in our office about their work, the size of the bonus pool, the timing of the payments, their individual bonus and interaction with Mr Thain, said the person familiar with the probe.
A Bank of America spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday night. The bank filed a motion in New York State Supreme Court on Wednesday asking a judge to either quash, fix conditions or modify the court-ordered subpoena of Thain.
The bank asked that the subpoena be changed to include a confidentiality order such that the individual compensation information (including names and/or job titles and corresponding compensation amounts of Merrill and Bank of America employees who received bonuses in 2008) provided by Mr. Thain in response to the Thain Subpoena be kept confidential by the Attorney General's Office and not be disseminated to the public.
Merrill's top investment banker, Andrea Orcel; its head of global proprietary trading, David Sobotka; and co-head of commodities, David Goodman, are among those Cuomo's office wants to testify, the person familiar with the probe said.
The others are Peter Kraus, who was head of global strategy at Merrill but has left; Thomas Montag, head of global sales and trading; David Gu, head of the global rates division; and Fares Noujaim, head of Bank of America in the Middle East and Africa.
The Wall Street Journal report said Merrill's 10 highest-paid employees received a total of $209 million in cash and stock in 2008 compared with $201 million paid to the top 10 in 2007. It said 11 top executives were paid more than $10 million in cash and stock last year.
(Reporting by Grant McCool; Editing by Gary Hill)