BUSINESS
04/10/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Gasparino On Cuomo: AG Is Zeroing In On Merrill Lynch's Thain

CNBC's Charles Gasparino said there is a new focus in the Merrill Lynch bonus investigation.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is now looking at whether John Thain, former Merrill Lynch head, asked the board to approve $3.6 billion in bonuses knowing that the firm was in trouble.

Gasparino said he had spoken to people close to Thain, who said the chief executive had the authority to hand out $5.8 billion in bonuses by year-end, and that he had done nothing wrong.

According to Gasparino, Cuomo has already deposed Thain twice, and might go back for more. Cuomo is also planning to speak with Merrill Lynch board members, Gasparino reported.

Three things are at issue in the Cuomo investigation: Should Bank of America have disclosed to shareholders that before its acquisition of Merrill Lynch had closed, it had asked the Fed for help to make the deal work? When BofA head Ken Lewis testified about the acquisition to Congress, were his comments truthful? And third, were Thain's comments on the hill also truthful?

According to Gasparino, Cuomo could charge Thain or Lewis for fraud, or just issue a white paper outlining best practices for not paying out billions of dollars in bonuses immediately before announcing heavy losses.

The CNBC reporter expects the case to be wrapped up in a month.

Read this story on the letter written by Cuomo and Rep. Barney Frank telling BofA's Lewis his behavior "fuels distrust and cynicism."