Well, that didn't take long.

Just days after resigning from Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain has been subpoenaed by the New York Attorney General regarding $4 billion in bonuses paid just days before merging with B of A -- at least a month before they're typically paid, and after B of A came to Uncle Sam, hat in hand.

"The fact that Merrill Lynch appears to have moved up the timetable to pay bonuses before its merger with Bank of America is troubling to say the least and warrants further investigation," said Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

Thain, a former Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) and NYSE Euronext (NYSE:NYX) executive, tried to justify the bonuses earlier this week, telling CNBC, "You have to believe that there's value in the franchise … If you don't pay your best people, you will destroy your franchise. Those best people can get jobs other places, they will leave."

Employees will leave? Really? And go where? Last I heard, Wall Street was on track to shed at least 200,000 jobs. Knowing a few people who work in the industry, believe me, those who still have jobs are thanking their lucky stars to still be employed and are sweating bullets for fear of being next on the chopping block. Besides, if you can't keep the "value of your franchise" intact without shaking down taxpayers, then, well, maybe it doesn't have much value. If the only way you can rally your troops is by paying them money you don't really have, maybe the war's already lost. I'm just sayin'.

Thain also tried to justify whom the bonuses went to, saying: "So, yes, [Merrill] lost an incredible amount of money. But that loss was concentrated in primarily mortgage- and credit-related assets. We have a much broader business space. We have an entire investment banking organization. We have an equity trading team. We have other business that did relatively well."

All right, I get it. Not everyone at Merrill Lynch -- or Wall Street in general, for that matter -- screwed up as much as others. Many employees had nothing to do with the Great Collapse and shouldn't be punished financially. But you know what? There're also several hundred million taxpayers who really had nothing to do with Merrill's mess but will be grudgingly paying for its cleanup for years. Taxpayers have been asked (er, forced) to make this a team sacrifice; is it too much to ask Merrill employees to do the same?

Should be interesting to see how this subpoena turns out. Perhaps it's a sign that more accountability is on the way. Cross your fingers.

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Fool contributor Morgan Housel doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. NYSE Euronext is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Bank of America is a former Income Investor pick. The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.