Thursday, April 23, 2009

Cuomo questions TARP, pressure on BofA's Lewis

NEW YORK (Reuters) - An investigation of Bank of America Corp revealed facts that raise questions about the transparency of the U.S. government program to help banks in the financial crisis, New York's top legal officer said in a letter made public on Thursday.

The letter, to senior members of congressional panels and the head of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, also said former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Ben Bernanke pressured Bank of America CEO Kenneth Lewis not to pull out of a merger with troubled Merrill Lynch & Co.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo also released details of testimony by Lewis to his office in February, which stemmed from a probe into the circumstances of $3.6 billion of bonuses paid to Merrill executives before the completion of the Bank of America takeover in January.

"We have uncovered facts that raise questions about the transparency of the TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) as well as about corporate governance and disclosure practices at Bank of America," Cuomo wrote in the letter, dated Thursday.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that Lewis testified that Bernanke and Paulson told him the acquisition of Merrill needed to go through and that failure would "impose a big risk to the financial system" of the United States.

The newspaper said Lewis also testified that Paulson and Bernanke pressured him to keep quiet about losses at Merrill. FULL STORY.

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