Nov. 26, 2002                                                         Contact:Lucas Hamilton

Montana to receive $500,000 from Merrill Lynch settlement

       Helena - State Auditor John Morrison announced today that his office received $500,000 from the settlement of a lawsuit involving conflict of interest allegations against Merrill Lynch. The money will be deposited directly into the state's general fund.
      Merrill Lynch agreed in May to pay $100 million to settle charges that it misled investors with its research on stocks of companies that also were investment-banking clients. The company will pay $48 million to New York state and $52 million to settle with all other states. Payments to other states are based on their percentage of the U.S. population.
      "Make no mistake, this fine is the result of vigilant law enforcement efforts that must continue to ensure that individual investors are treated fairly," said Morrison, Montana's securities commissioner.
      This settlement, ending litigation led by New York Attorney General Elliott Spitzer, is related to national efforts the Montana State Auditor's Office has participated in, investigating conflicts of interest between brokers and analysts.
      "There is a very steep price to pay when those entrusted with the money of investors violate that trust," Morrison said. "My office will continue to aggressively pursue actions that protect Montana consumers."
      Consumer complaints to the Montana Securities Department in the State Auditor's Office have steadily increased in recent years. Morrison plans to release the details of the Montana Investor Protection Act early next month. The proposed legislation would strengthen Montana's securities laws, providing added protections for Montana consumers.