NEW YORK/WASHINGTON -- Bank of America Corp agreed to waive legal privileges linked to its purchase of Merrill Lynch, in a step that could force the bank to hand over more details of how much it knew when it bought the investment bank, federal regulators said on Tuesday.
The agreement, still subject to court approval, would allow the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to look at more details concerning the bank's failure to disclose information to shareholders about Merrill Lynch's performance and pending losses.
Last month, a federal judge rejected Bank of America's $33 million settlement with the SEC, which alleged it misled investors about $3.6 billion of bonuses paid to Merrill employees.
U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff faulted the SEC for accepting the bank's effort to invoke attorney-client privilege and avoid disclosing what executives and lawyers knew about its authorization to pay the bonuses.
If the pact is approved, the SEC would have access to information on the bank's decisions about whether to disclose impairment of goodwill of Merrill and other financial results of Merrill Lynch during the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2008.
The agreement would also give the SEC access to the bank's communications with the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department, which helped broker the deal and buttress the bank with taxpayer funds.
If approved, the order would allow the SEC to share the information from Bank of America with other government authorities including federal and state regulators, the SEC said.
The bank faces many lawsuits and investigations by lawmakers and regulators. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has threatened to sue bank officers.
Calls to the bank were not immediately returned.
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