Eleven top executives at Merrill Lynch were paid more than $10 million in cash and stock last year, the Wall Street Journal reports, even as the brokerage reported a loss in 2008 of almost $28 billion. An additional 149 executives received $3 million or more, the Journal reports, citing people familiar with the situation. The stock awards, which accounted for much of the compensation, have fallen sharply in value since they were made last year. The newspaper said it identified most of the top 10 executives and their compensation levels from documents and interviews with people familiar with Merrill's compensation. Merrill's 10 highest-paid employees got a total of $209 million in cash and stock in 2008, up slightly from $201 million paid to the top 10 a year earlier, according to figures reviewed by the Journal. Much of the 2008 pay came from bonuses, the newspaper reports, since base salaries for top Merrill executives generally range from $200,000 to $750,000. Some of the top Merrill earners ran divisions that did well last year amid the firm's troubles. Andrea Orcel, Merrill's top investment banker, was paid $33.8 million in cash and stock in 2008, the Journal said. Merrill has come under fire in recent weeks for year-end bonuses it paid to its employees in December just weeks before it was sold to Bank of America ( BAC) and ahead of the initial report of its 2008 losses. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating the timing of the bonuses and whether Merrill provided adequate disclosures about them and its projected losses.
Merrill's former CEO, John Thain, who was ousted from his position, has testified twice before Cuomo's office about the bonuses. Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis also has been subpoenaed to discuss what he knew of the bonuses, which were doled out before Bank of America took control of Merrill. Bank of America thus far hasn't turned over the names of Merrill's highest-paid executives, claiming it would help rivals woo its top talent, the Journal reports.