The US Securities and Exchange Commission’s amended complaint regarding the acquisition of Merrill Lynch by Bank of America Corp. last January includes one new assertion. In addition to the SEC’s original allegations against Bank of America, the agency now says that the investment bank was in violation of proxy regulations when it did not provide a merger agreement schedule, as well as a list identifying what would have been included in the schedule.
At the center of the SEC lawsuit is Bank of America’s proxy disclosure to shareholders that it wouldn’t pay year-end bonuses to Merrill executives. Yet, even as Merrill posted a record $27.8 billion loss last year, its executives were paid $3.6 billion.
BofA and the SEC initially attempted to settle the allegations for $33 million. Federal Judge Rakoff, however, wouldn’t sign off on what he considered both a swift resolution to an embarrassing situation for the bank and an attempt to make it appear as if the SEC was engaged in enforcement.
Rakoff accused SEC of not being hard enough on Bank of America, which it is supposed to regulate, even as shareholders suffered. He also accused the defendant of neglecting to take responsibility for its actions, which forced taxpayers to bail out the investment bank. A trial is scheduled to begin on March 1.
The US Congress and New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo are also investigating the merger between Bank of America and Merrill Lynch.
Related Web Resources:
SEC’s Amended BofA Complaint: New Claims, but No New Defendants, Law.com, October 23, 2009
Judge Rejects Settlement Over Merrill Bonuses, NY Times, September 15, 2009
SEC Fines Bank Of America $33 Million Over Bonuses, Consumer Affairs, August 3, 2009
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