Merrill Lynch's decision to hand out extravagant bonuses last year— as it was about to lose $15 billion in the final quarter—continues to cause problems for Bank of America, which acquired Merrill. Even though the Securities and Exchange Commission (you know, the agency that was supposed to keep tabs on Madoff) settled a lawsuit against BoA for the bonuses, to the tune of BoA paying $33 million, a federal judge has refused to approve the settlement! The SEC complaint said that BoA lied about letting Merrill pay as much as $5.8 billion in bonuses (Merill paid out $3.6 billIon), leading Rakoff to point out that if BoA did in fact break the law, then there's "something strangely askew in a fine of $33 million." He added that both companies "effectively lied to their shareholders... Do Wall Street people expect to be paid large bonuses in years when their company lost $27 billion?"—$27 billion is the amount that Merrill lost. And when a BoA lawyer pointed out that much of the bonus money was shared by people making an average of $91,000/year, Rakoff said, "I’m glad you think that $91,000 is not a lot of money. I wish the average American was making $91,000."