NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) - Change to Win Investment Group is backing New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo in his quest to make public the names of former Merrill Lynch executives who received millions of dollars in bonuses last year.

CtW wrote New York County Supreme Court Judge Bernard Fried Thursday, asking him to side with Cuomo for the sake of shareholders who must have the information before they can vote in Bank of America's director election in April.

Bank of America CEO Kenneth Lewis said he would give Cuomo the names of 696 Merrill Lynch employees who were given bonuses before Bank of America completed its purchase of Merrill Lynch if they were kept confidential. The bonuses totaled $3.6 billion.

"At a time when Bank of America's continued viability rests on $45 billion of taxpayer assistance, we are dismayed that management would antagonize the New York State Attorney General and Congressman Barney Frank over a disclosure issue that has merit for shareholders and taxpayers alike," wrote William Patterson, executive director of CtW.

"Management needs to focus on stabilizing the bank and restoring shareholder value, not further undermining their credibility with the investors, elected officials and regulators whose support is essential to the bank's recovery."

Bank of America agreed in September to buy Merrill Lynch for $50 billion, and Cuomo thinks Bank of America may have known about the bonuses and did not tell investors. He filed the state court action against former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain.

"Disclosure of the subpoenaed bonus information could further help to inform shareholder voting on individual Bank of America directors," Patterson wrote.

"This includes the three former Merrill Lynch directors nominated for election to the Bank of America board, as well as the 15 incumbent Bank of America directors responsible for ensuring that the bank exercised its negotiated right to consult on the determination of Merrill Lynch's 2008 bonus payments."

Friday's proceedings, which begin at 9:30 a.m., can be heard on Courtroom View Network's Web site.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at

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