Bank of America paid $1.2 billion to Merrill associates…

We hate to pick on Bank of America (BAC). Really we do. But we couldn’t help it after noticing something new and interesting buried deep in this amended 8K filed late yesterday. We’ll skip right to the good part:

Adjustments to record approximately $1.2 billion related to contractual change in control obligations included in historical Merrill Lynch share-based payment awards for Merrill Lynch associates. Bank of America is required to settle these share-based payment awards in cash. The adjustments reflected herein are based on current assumptions and valuations as of January 1, 2009.

The disclosure is a new one. Of course, there’s no breakdown on exactly who — or how many — got that $1.2 billion. But this story on the front page of the WSJ provides some pretty good clues based on what’s clearly private information. Then again, the Journal is looking at salaries and yesterday’s 8K describes this as change in control payments, which probably means that this is in addition to those salaries. What would be interesting to know is whether some of the former Merrill execs who now work for BofA got some of that $1.2 billion mentioned in yesterday’s filing.

Yesterday’s filing was an update to this 8K filed on Jan. 2 announcing the completion of the acquisition of Merrill to provide pro-forma numbers. The filing also estimates the cost of the merger at $3 billion and the savings to be as high as $7 billion, which seems pretty optimistic. And there’s enough footnotes (and footnotes to the footnotes) to keep you occupied for a good chunk of the day in an attempt to sort through. At the end of the filing, there’s even some pro-forma numbers for Countrywide — a deal that closed a year ago.

So who did that $1.2 billion go to? Let the guessing begin.