Dec. 3, 2002                                                         Contact:Lucas Hamilton

Morrison presents State with $500,000 from Merrill Lynch settlement


       Helena - State Auditor John Morrison today presented Gov. Judy Martz with a $500,000 check his office received from Merrill Lynch to settle allegations of conflict of interest.
      Merrill Lynch, the nation's largest brokerage, agreed in May to pay a total of $100 million to all 50 states 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. Montana's payment is based on its percentage of the U.S. population.
      "This settlement should send a message to those entrusted with the investment dollars of our citizens that illegal activity that harms our investors will not be tolerated," said Morrison, Montana's securities commissioner, at a news conference in the Governor's Reception Room. "This should strengthen investor confidence and ensure that Montanans will continue receiving information they need to make wise investment choices."
      This settlement, ending litigation led by New York Attorney General Elliott Spitzer, is related to national efforts that the Montana State Auditor's Office has participated in, investigating conflicts of interest between brokers and analysts.
      "It is absolutely key that Montana investors be protected against those who would seek to mislead them," Martz said. "I greatly appreciate the work of the State Auditor's office on this case on behalf of Montana. The settlement dollars will go toward the state's general fund FY03 ending fund balance."
      Morrison applauded the efforts of Spitzer and expressed appreciation for his leadership in protecting consumers. Consumer complaints to the Montana Securities Department in the State Auditor's Office have steadily increased in recent years. Morrison said his office will continue to aggressively pursue actions that protect Montana consumers.