December 14, 2009                                                         Contact:Lucas Hamilton

Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner & Smith, Inc. agrees to pay hefty fine

      Broker settles allegation of using unlicensed agents
      Helena- Montana Commissioner of Securities Monica Lindeen entered into a settlement with Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc., as the result of an investigation showing the company used unlicensed securities agents. Under the terms of the consent agreement, Merrill Lynch will cease and desist from engaging in the sale of securities in Montana by persons not registered with the Commissioner as agents. Merrill Lynch agreed to pay a $300,000 fine that will be deposited into the general fund.
      The settlement finalizes a multi-state investigation implicating Merrill Lynch "client associates". Client associate are hired to provide administrative and sales support to Merrill Lynch's financial advisors. However, the investigation determined that from 2002 to the present Merrill Lynch client associates were, on occasion, working beyond the support level and providing financial services to Montana investors that required a securities license.
      The Office of the Commissioner of Securities is responsible for licensing all securities agents in Montana.
      "Montana's citizens should feel their investments are safe and the securities business they are transacting is with a properly licensed firm and individual," said Commissioner Lindeen. "My office continues to take appropriate action to ensure securities firms and brokers are only benefitting from doing business with Montana investors if they are in compliance with the law."
      For further information on this instance or to learn more about securities licensure, contact the Office of the Commissioner of Securities and Insurance at 1-800-332-6148 or online at