WASHINGTON — House lawmakers lambasted former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Bank of America Corp. chief executive Kenneth Lewis on Thursday, suggesting officials looked the other way as major mistakes at the bank required a $20 billion bailout of the firm at the expense of taxpayers.

"While all of this was going on, the American people, investors and the Congress were kept in the dark," said Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., suggesting negotiations over the bank completing its deal for Merrill Lynch & Co. was a "good old-fashioned Brooklyn shakedown."

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