The names of 200 highest bonus earners at Merrill Lynch & Co last year are not a trade secret and can be made public in an investigation by New York's top legal officer, a judge ruled on Wednesday.

The record does not support the intervenors' claim that the employee compensation information is a trade secret, New York State Supreme Court Justice Bernard Fried wrote in the ruling.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has pressed for months for details on the billions of dollars paid to executives at banks given U.S. government bailout money, including $3.6 billion at Merrill, which was bought by Bank of America on January 1.

In court arguments on March 13, a lawyer for Merrill and Bank of America told the judge that the names were a trade secret and should not be made public, citing concerns over competition, privacy and security of those personnel.

A spokesman for Bank of America could not immediately comment on Wednesday's ruling, which comes as American International Group is being hammered by legislators, Cuomo and the general public over bonuses to some of its executives.

I conclude there is no legal basis for the proposed petitions to quash, fix conditions or modify subpoena and for a protective order, Fried wrote, referring to the subpoena issued by Cuomo to former Merrill Chief Executive John Thain.

He and Bank of America Chief Executive Kenneth Lewis have testified under oath to lawyers at the attorney general's office on executive pay.

A spokesman for Cuomo could not immediately comment on the ruling.

The case is Cuomo v. Thain, New York State Supreme Court (Manhattan), No. 400381/2009.

(Reporting by Grant McCool, Editing by Toni Reinhold)