Video: Bonus showdown

updated 3/13/2009 11:56:11 AM ET 2009-03-13T15:56:11

A judge said Friday he will decide within a week whether Bank of America Corp. has to turn over a list of performance bonuses given to the 200 highest paid employees of Merrill Lynch & Co.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has subpoenaed the list of names and bonuses as part of his investigation into the circumstances surrounding the brokerage firm’s recent acquisition by Bank of America.

Lawyers for Bank of America said they fear that Cuomo will make those pay details public, possibly embarrassing workers and disclosing sensitive company information.

The bank has asked the court to allow it to submit the information on bonuses without the names of the workers who got them, or enter an order forbidding Cuomo from disclosing the information.

“People care about their privacy,” the bank’s attorney, Evan Davis, told the judge. He also argued that the bonus information was effectively a trade secret. “Our competitors want this information,” he said.

A lawyer for the attorney general, Eric Corngold, said that the information had been requested as part of an official law enforcement investigation, and Bank of America had no right to withhold it.

“We can’t have the subjects of an investigation telling the attorney general who he can subpoena,” he said. A temporary court order is in place that is keeping the employee names confidential for now.

State Supreme Court Justice Bernard Fried said he planned on issuing a decision by next Friday.

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