A federal judge said Monday that he hopes to rule by Feb. 19 on whether to approve a $150 million settlement between Bank of America Corp. and the Securities and Exchange Commission over the company's disclosures before its acquisition of Merrill Lynch & Co.

At a hearing Monday, U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff in Manhattan said he has additional questions that he plans to submit to the parties about the pact, which was announced last Thursday.

During the hearing, the judge raised questions about the departure of B of A's general counsel shortly after a shareholder vote on the merger in December 2008 and various parts of the agreement, such as whether the court should have a say in the hiring of an independent compensation consultant for the company.

The settlement, announced Thursday, would resolve two lawsuits by the SEC — one over B of A's disclosures regarding billions of dollars in bonuses paid to Merrill employees shortly before the $50 billion merger closed in January 2009 and the other over its alleged failure to disclose mounting losses at Merrill before a 2008 shareholder vote on the merger.

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