In a scathingly-worded decision, a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority arbitration panel ruled Tuesday that Merrill must pay $10 million to two brokers, Meri Ramazio and Tamara Smolchek. The panel said Merrill fraudulently prevented the brokers from collecting deferred compensation when they left after Bank of America’s takeover in 2008. A similar ruling came down in late 2010, when two brokers who had departed after BofA took ownership received $1.167 million for deferred compensation benefits that had been denied to them.

Merrill Lynch, beset by lawsuits from every direction, may be on the hook for millions in deferred compensation sought by brokers who left in the wake of BofA’s acquisition of the firm if the Tuesday panel decision sets any kind of precedent.

But Merrill Lynch spokesman Bill Halldin says Tuesday’s ruling is wrong, that it is an outlier and that the amount awarded bears no relation to the damages at issue. Merrill quickly filed a petition to vacate the ruling.

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(Read more from Features Editor, Kristen French on her blog, Due Diligence.)