Magazine article American Banker

Merrill Exec Says Every State Will Sign Agreement

Magazine article American Banker

Merrill Exec Says Every State Will Sign Agreement

Article excerpt

The settlement agreement Merrill Lynch & Co. signed in May with New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has been approved by 40 states, and the company expects the rest to approve it soon, E. Stanley O'Neal, Merrill's president and chief operating officer, said on Wednesday.

"Forty states have signed up as of yesterday (Tuesday), and the other states have all made noises that there is no reason as of yet that they will not sign," Mr. O'Neal said in response to a question at a New York banking conference sponsored by Merrill. "I'm confident that we're going to reach an agreement with all 50 states."

Last week representatives from seven states -- California, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, and South Dakota -- told American Banker that they are still reviewing the settlement, and several said they have reservations.

Spence Jackson, a spokesman for Missouri Secretary of State Matt Blunt, said that the state has "set no timetable" for making a final decision. Don Saxon, the director of the Florida Department of Banking and Finance, said that state officials wanted to make sure the settlement "adequately addresses concerns that we might have as a state." The New York Law Journal has reported that South Dakota does not intend to sign on.

On Wednesday a Merrill spokesman would not say which states have not signed the agreement.

The $100 million settlement resolved conflict-of-interest charges against Merrill's research department. Mr. Spitzer had alleged that Merrill's equity analysts tried to land investment banking business by publicly talking up stocks that they privately disparaged in e-mails.

The deal calls for New York to receive between $43 million and $48 million from Merrill, with the rest to be split among the other 49 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

At the conference, Mr. …

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