Thain defends actions at Merrill, says BofA knew of bonuses

Former Merrill Lynch chief executive John Thain, ousted last week from his new post at Bank of America Corp., is defending his tenure at the firm, including bonuses paid to Merrill employees before the sale to the Charlotte bank closed.

In a memo to employees and posted by the Wall Street Journal, Thain said the composition of the bonuses and the timing were determined together with Bank of America and approved by the Merrill Lynch board. He also said the bonus pool was 41 percent lower than in 2007.

Bank of America has said the bank was informed of the bonus decision, but spokesman Scott Silvestri on Monday downplayed the bank's role in the payouts.

"John Thain and the Merrill Lynch compensation committee made the decision on the amount and timing of year end compensation at Merrill Lynch," Silvestri said. "We had no legal right to challenge it."

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