February 27, 2009 / 2:51 AM / 8 years ago

Top N.Y. legal officer demands bonus list from BofA CEO

<p>Kenneth Lewis, Chairman, CEO and President of Bank of America, is seen after a meeting at the Attorney General's office in New York February 26, 2009.Lucas Jackson</p>

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York's top legal officer on Thursday demanded Bank of America Corp Chief Executive Kenneth Lewis provide names of Merrill Lynch executives who received 2008 bonuses, and how much they got, before the bank's takeover of the firm in January.

Executive compensation is a burning issue in the financial industry and challenges to pay are being led by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, whose office deposed former Merrill CEO John Thain on Tuesday for a second time over $3.6 billion in bonuses.

"I answered all the questions to the best of my knowledge and hopefully brought some clarity," Lewis told reporters after he gave a deposition in Manhattan to Cuomo's lawyers on Thursday that lasted about four hours.

"It's been a long evening and I'm tired," said Lewis, who was served a subpoena for the list of names.

A Bank of America spokesman, who was with Lewis during the deposition, said he had not been given an indication of whether Lewis would have to return for further questioning.

Cuomo's special assistant, Benjamin Lawsky, said on Thursday night that the office was "very disappointed" that the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank had not provided the information previously.

"We've been asking for a list of who got what," said Lawsky.

Cuomo began questioning bonus plans in October after nine banks received $125 billion in U.S. Treasury funds.

In a statement, Lawsky said: "We obviously wanted to question Mr. Lewis about this list and are very disappointed that Bank of America has chosen not to produce it.

"As a result, during the testimony this evening, we served a subpoena on Bank of America for the list, which we intend to obtain."

Earlier this week, Cuomo's office alleged that Bank of America was obstructing its probe into bonuses that the attorney general has said made millionaires out of hundreds of employees at the Merrill brokerage amid billions in losses.

Lawsky declined to say whether Lewis' testimony contradicted that of Thain, who was deposed under a court order to provide details of bonuses awarded to individual executives before Merrill was taken over by Bank of America on January 1.

Thain, who played a central role in awarding $3.6 billion in bonuses days before the merger, said Bank of America told him not to discuss the awards, according to court documents filed by Cuomo on Monday.

Reporting by Phil Wahba and Grant McCool, Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

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