Friday, February 27, 2009

Bank of America’s Lewis Testifies, Gets Subpoena Over Bonuses

Feb. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Kenneth Lewis, chief executive officer of Bank of America Corp., testified for four hours at New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s offices in a probe of $3.6 billion in bonuses paid at Merrill Lynch & Co. just before it merged with the bank.

“I answered the questions that were asked to the best of my knowledge,” Lewis, 61, said yesterday after the deposition, before being driven away from the attorney general’s office in lower Manhattan in a black Lincoln Navigator. “I hope this brought some clarity.”

Benjamin Lawsky, a special assistant to Cuomo, said after Lewis left that the attorney general’s office served the bank during the deposition with a subpoena to produce a list of the individual bonuses.

“The attorney general is severely disappointed in Bank of America’s decision in not turning over specific information: who got what bonus at Merrill Lynch,” Lawsky said. “The list goes to what individuals got and when they got it.”

Cuomo has been examining whether Merrill broke securities laws when it paid the bonuses. He is cooperating with U.S. Special Inspector General Neil Barofsky in a federal probe of executive pay at banks that received money from the U.S. Treasury’s Troubled Assets Relief Program. Merrill and Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America have received about $45 billion in TARP money. The bank completed its acquisition of Merrill on Jan. 1.

Bank’s Offer

Bank of America has been offering the names of individual bonus recipients to Cuomo for two weeks on the condition that he keep them confidential, said Robert Stickler, a bank spokesman in phone interview yesterday.

“He refused to do that,” Stickler said. “We believe our employees are entitled to privacy in terms of their compensation. We also believe that to make the compensation of individuals public would put us at a competitive disadvantage with people who want to recruit our employees.”

Stickler had no comment on the subpoena.

Asked whether Cuomo’s office got the list of individual bonus recipients from former Merrill Chief Executive Officer John Thain, who testified for Cuomo for the second time this week, Lawsky declined comment.

Thain’s Testimony

Thain, when deposed by Cuomo’s office on Feb. 19, said he couldn’t identify those who got bonuses, citing orders from Bank of America that he keep the information confidential. Cuomo went to court Feb. 23 to compel Thain to disclose the recipients. A judge ruled he was free to disclose the names.

Thain testified again on Feb. 24 for 2 1/2 hours, said his attorney, Andrew Levander.

“He cooperated thoroughly and answered whatever was asked,” Levander said of Thain’s Feb. 24 testimony in an e-mail. Levander declined to comment on whether Thain was asked to identify bonus recipients.

New York State Supreme Court Justice Bernard Fried will decide if Thain’s testimony will become public, according to Levander.

Lawsky said Lewis’s testimony yesterday lasted about four hours and covered “many topics.”

In a Bloomberg Television interview on Feb. 25, Lewis declined to comment on whether he or the bank directed Thain not to disclose the recipients.

Lewis also said the acquisitions of Merrill and Countrywide Financial Corp. have been “stars” so far this year.

Merrill will be “a thing of beauty” over the long term, Lewis said. Merrill, the New York-based securities firm, lost $15.8 billion in the fourth quarter.

Lewis flew on a corporate jet for the deposition by Cuomo’s office “because of the importance of this meeting,” Timothy Gilles, a Bank of America spokesman, said in an interview.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

St. Martin Island

Forty-eight kilometers from Teknaf, St. Martin's is the country's only coral island and an unspoilt paradise. Named Narikel Jinjira (Coconut Island) by the locals, the dumbbell shaped St.Martin's has an area of only 8 sq. km. which reduces to about 5 sq. km. and in places from 1-4 meters during high tide.

The Cox's Bazar Holiday Complex of Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation on the island is an shore tourist resort having comfortable accommodation, catering, sightseeing and other facilities.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

PM aims for world class education

Gordon Brown has pledged to help Britain achieve a "world class" education system where young people from every background can prosper.

In a speech at the University of Greenwich, the PM called for a "culture change" and promised to assist all young people in "seizing the opportunities available to them". Low expectations and acceptance of failure have "held our country back for too long", he said.

The PM said:

"I believe that each young person has talent and potential. Each some gift to develop. Each something to give to the good of the community.

"The Britain I strive for is a Britain with no cap on ambition, no ceiling on hope, no limit to where your potential will take you and how far you can rise: a Britain where the talents of each contribute to the well being and prosperity of all."

Mr Brown outlined a number of Government priorities, including increased parental participation, improved early learning and the recruitment of the best possible teaching staff. The Government plans to introduce more one-to-one and small group tuition and increase the number of young people staying in education beyond 16, he said.

Other measures include annual improvement targets for schools and incentives for the best teachers to go to underperforming schools through schemes such as Teach First and Teach Next. The Government will also create a new "UCAS-style" system for matching apprentices with businesses and provide support for apprentices worth anything from £3,000 up to £15,000 for highly skilled jobs such as engineering.

The PM was accompanied by Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families. Mr Balls will take part in a live webchat in Downing Street on 1 November at 15:00 GMT.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


VICTORIA – The Province and the BC Lung Association are congratulating approximately 7,000 British Columbians who are actively working to quit smoking by participating in the BC Lung Association’s QuitNow and Win contest, said Mary Polak, Minister of Healthy Living and Sport, and Scott McDonald, executive director of the BC Lung Association.

“As we kick off National Non-Smoking Week, it’s encouraging to see so many British Columbians make a commitment to improve their health by eliminating tobacco use,” said Polak. “The personal stories shared by QuitNow and Win participants on reflect the powerful and negative hold a nicotine addiction has had on many British Columbians and their families. It takes courage to make this commitment and I commend each participant and wish them every success.”

The QuitNow and Win contest launched on Nov. 24, and British Columbians began registering their plan to quit smoking. When registration closed on Jan. 5, 2009, more than 7,000 smokers had registered, and those who live tobacco-free between Jan. 6 and Feb. 2, 2009 are eligible for $20,000 in prizes.

“We are thrilled by the number of people who entered the QuitNow and Win contest,” said McDonald. “They’re already winners in our eyes. Smoking is a terrible addiction, and quitting remains the single most important thing a person can do to ensure a long, healthy life. That’s more valuable than any contest prize could ever be.”

QuitNow and Win is supported by ActNow BC, which is government’s healthy living initiative to encourage British Columbians to lead healthier lives through increased physical activity, healthy eating, eliminating tobacco use and healthy pregnancies.

“I’ve always wanted to quit, but haven’t had the motivation,” said Torrie Cherot, a Victoria resident who is participating in the contest and celebrating her 24th birthday. “QuitNow and Win has provided me with a jumpstart to quit smoking. I feel better about myself and have more energy every day that I don’t smoke.”

Since 1977, National Non-Smoking week has promoted a wide range of support for smokers to quit, while helping prevent non-smokers from becoming smokers and promoting the rights of individuals who do not smoke.