The Office has also learned that, less than a week after Merrill voted its premature bonuses, Merrill determined that it would incur an unexpected additional $7 billion in losses for the fourth quarter of 2008, beyond the $8 billion it was already anticipating (Id. at Ex. D at 9-11 and Ex. H at 128-29). It appears that some of these losses may have been booked by Merrill employees who marked down their portfolios only after their 2008 bonuses were set (Id. at Ex. W). Despite the gargantuan unexpected losses, Merrill did not reconsider its bonus awards (which had been voted but not yet paid out) and Bank of America neither requested nor demanded that Merrill reduce its bonus pool (!d. at Ex. C at 106-07, Ex. D at 115-17, Ex. E at 86, and Ex. H at 28). Again, these material developments were undisclosed to the company's shareholders or to the legislators considering how to salvage the American banking system (!d. at Ex. C at 146-49).As any derivatives trader will attest, this calendar "straddle" as it is lovingly called by some, is by far the oldest trick in the book, where multivariate models' inputs are jiggered in order to spew one number, only to have the correction subsequently "discovered" and fixed at the bank's expense while the bonus has already been pocketed. It is also a reason why many banks have pushed their bonus determination late into the subsequent year so that they are able to have at least semi-audited numbers serve as the basis for bonuses.
If Cuomo pursues this avenue successfully and obtains proof of malfeasance, the consequences would be much more dire than a mere slap on the wrist and bonus disgorgement, as mark manipulation does have criminal connotations associated with it, for both the perpetrator and the enabler/supervisor. It is likely that many if not all derivatives traders at Merrill are likely sweating bullets right now and "opportunistically" looking for exit opportunities in an attempt to cover the tracks expeditiously before the Attorney General's office realizes that there are such things as desk trading blotters that keep track of any trade done during the day, and any P&L mismatch between the "official" record and the trader's own would be immediately obvious by just comparing entry/exit levels on the blotter. Sphere: Related Content Print this post