NEW YORK Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) said it could suffer "grave harm" if it is forced to reveal data about an estimated $3.6 billion of bonuses paid to Merrill Lynch & Co officials in the days before the bank acquired the brokerage.
In a petition filed late Wednesday in a New York state court in Manhattan, the bank urged Justice Bernard Fried to reject New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's demand for the data, which the bank believes should be kept confidential.
Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America bought Merrill on January 1, shortly after the bonuses were awarded.
Bank of America said revealing the data could help rivals poach talent, prompt employees to leave because their privacy was violated, cause "internal dissension and consternation," increase security risks for bonus recipients, and give rivals a better idea of which businesses it considers most valuable.
Cuomo is investigating whether the bonuses violated securities laws. His office subpoenaed seven Merrill executives who got tens of millions of dollars of compensation in 2008, a person familiar with the probe said on Wednesday.
Bank of America said neither the names nor the job titles of bonus recipients are relevant to Cuomo's probe or the public. "Disclosing such highly sensitive and confidential information to the public will cause grave harm and severe competitive disadvantage" to the bank, it said.
Bank of America Chief Executive Kenneth Lewis and former Merrill Chief Executive John Thain have testified under subpoena about the bonuses. The names of some of Merrill's top earners were published Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal.
Fried has scheduled a March 13 hearing on whether the bonus data can be disclosed. The judge is considering a separate request from a third party to broadcast the hearing.
The case is Cuomo v. Thain, New York State Supreme Court (Manhattan), No. 400381/09.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; editing by John Wallace)