Let us remember the fact set: Merrill managed to get Bank of America to agree to buy it in September, elbowing aside Lehman. The deal is subject to shareholder approval, however. BofA, realizing it has acquired a garbage barge, threatens to scuttle the deal unless Uncle Sam lends a helping hand. Negotiations proceed behind closed doors (and neither Merrill nor BofA shareholders are told prior to the shareholder vote that BofA has agreed to do the deal subject to some form of government support).
Now we learn that after it was evident that the US taxpayer was going to subsidize the Merrill acquisition, the Merrill compensation committee accelerated bonus payments by a month to make sure they were paid out before the BofA deal closed.
Efforts are being made to minimize the amount involved (it is claimed to be only $3-$4 billion, but the fact is amounts were reserved in prior quarters that are excessive in light of full year performance. So the fact that some of the amounts were allowed for in previous quarters is misleading).