For months, Bank of America has been trying to keep secret its legal conversations at the end of last year about its coming merger with Merrill Lynch. So far, it has succeeded, mainly by arguing that those conversations should remain confidential because they are protected by attorney-client privilege.
But now, the bank is facing questions from a House panel, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, whose chairman, Representative Edolphus Towns, has told the bank that it cannot use attorney-client privilege when dealing with Congress.
If Mr. Towns has his way, Bank of America would be forced to reveal information that would then affect a range of other investigations into the merger, including one by the attorney general of New York and another by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
In a sternly worded letter on Friday, Mr. Towns, a New York Democrat, said the bank must divulge when it became aware of the enormous losses at Merrill last year, when it received a commitment from the federal government for a second round of bailout money and what legal advice its management received about whether it had to disclose those developments to the bank’s shareholders.
Mr. Towns gave the bank until noon on Monday to provide answers and relevant legal documents. He said it seemed that the bank was “hiding information.” The bank replied to Mr. Towns’s committee late on Saturday, asking him to delay that request until after Tuesday, when Mr. Towns meets with Anne Finucane, the bank’s chief strategy and marketing officer, who oversees public policy at the bank. But a spokesman for Mr. Towns said on Sunday that he was sticking to the deadline.