The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged Bank of America Corporation for misleading investors about billions of dollars in bonuses that were being paid to Merrill Lynch & Co. executives at the time of its acquisition of the firm. Bank of America agreed to settle the SEC’s charges and pay a penalty of $33 million.
The SEC alleges that in proxy materials soliciting the votes of shareholders on the proposed acquisition of Merrill, Bank of America stated that Merrill had agreed that it would not pay year-end performance bonuses or other discretionary compensation to its executives prior to the closing of the merger without Bank of America’s consent. In fact, Bank of America had already contractually authorized Merrill to pay up to $5.8 billion in discretionary bonuses to Merrill executives for 2008. According to the SEC’s complaint, the disclosures in the proxy statement were rendered materially false and misleading by the existence of the prior undisclosed agreement allowing Merrill to pay billions of dollars in bonuses for 2008.