But the money may not all have been wasted from Flowers' perspective -- at least not in one important instance. In an unusual one-time return to his earlier career as an adviser on bank M&A, Flowers signed off on BofA 's ill-fated acquisition of Merrill Lynch in September, splitting a $20 million advisory fee with Fox-Pitt, Kelton, a boutique investment bank he recently acquired. Two private equity investors and an investment banker suspect Flowers may have billed his investors for the work on Merrill Lynch without sharing the fee with them. That is because the work he did on Merrill initially was as a potential investor. He then switched hats, but they assume he had no arrangement with them to share advisory fee revenues, as this was an unexpected situation. Flowers declined to respond to these suspicions. One executive who oversees private equity for a multibillion dollar institutional investment portfolio would not say whether he was invested with Flowers, though he says he knows him personally, likes and respects him, and demonstrated great familiarity with his investments. "He's got to make sure that what he does over the next 12 to 18 months works out and works out really well," the executive said.