BofA investor lawsuit wins class-action status

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Investors suing Bank of America Corp won class-action status for their lawsuit accusing the bank of fraudulently misleading them about the 2008 takeover of Merrill Lynch & Co and the size of Merrill's losses and bonus payouts.

U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel in Manhattan on Monday rejected the second-largest U.S. bank's argument that the investors could not prove they suffered losses by relying on materially misleading statements or omissions.

Among the other defendants who were also sued and opposed class certification were former Bank of America Chief Executive Kenneth Lewis, former Merrill Chief Executive John Thain, former Bank of America Chief Financial Officer Joe Price, and Bank of America's board of directors.

Lewis had won initial praise for saving Merrill from possible collapse when he agreed to buy it on September 15, 2008, the day Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc went bankrupt.

But investors later faulted the bank for not disclosing the scope of Merrill's soaring losses, which reached $15.84 billion in the fourth quarter of 2008, before December 2008 shareholder votes on the merger. They also objected to Merrill's having paid $3.6 billion of bonuses despite the losses.

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