SEC Widens Probe of BofA

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said today it is investigating Bank of America Corp.’s (BofA) failure to disclose Merrill Lynch’s losses to shareholders voting on Merrill’s acquisition.

A Bloomberg news report said the revelation came during testimony from SEC Enforcement Director Robert Khuzami before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “We have been and are looking at all aspects of the activity with respect to the proxy statements including the fourth-quarter losses at Merrill Lynch,” Khuzami testified.

The SEC is already pursuing allegations against BofA in a lawsuit that the bank misled investors about bonus payments while planning to acquire Merrill. U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff previously tossed out a proposed $33-million settlement in the case (see “It’s a No-Go for BofA Settlement with SEC”). The SEC said in September that it was considering bringing additional charges (see “SEC Plans Deeper Probe of BofA-Merrill Merger”).

“Based on the investigative record that existed at the time, we did not believe that we could fairly and properly assert” accusations against individuals, Khuzami said in his prepared statement, according to Bloomberg. “We have used the additional discovery available in the litigation to further pursue the facts and determine whether it is appropriate to seek additional charges.”

The bank has said in court papers that it did nothing wrong and agreed to settle to avoid litigation with the regulator (see “BofA Responds to SEC Charges” and “BofA Surrenders Legal Documents about Merrill Deal“).