Merrill Lynch plans structural change after New York Attorney General's attacks
Merrill Lynch has enlisted the support of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani as part of its effort to repel the onslaught of New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer over alleged conflicts of interest in its research. Giuliani has swapped sides from his career in the 1980s as a Wall Street attacking prosecutor to assist in the bank's negotiations with Spitzer. Spitzer has stated that if Merrill Lynch refuses to make changes to its research process, it could face criminal and civil charges. New York legal giant Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom is also on board as outside counsel. Giuliani is reported to have said: "There is a problem here, no one is running away from that. We should try to find a solution that corrects it, and that really requires more than one player, not just one attorney general taking action." It is understood that Giuliani and Spitzer have discussed Merrill Lynch's situation. Spitzer has been gunning for the bank since he began investigating allegations that analysts at the bank were recommending stocks in public while privately expressing doubts about their credibility. As Spitzer's 10-month investigation gathers momentum and other parties become involved, Merrill Lynch has had to bring out the heavy-hitters. Giuliani has been working with Merrill Lynch to form a plan of action for the bank's proposed structural changes. It has become clear that it has to separate its research activities from those in investment banking. It is pressing for these reforms to apply to other Wall Street firms as well. Last week, the North American Securities Ad-ministrators Association, which represents state securities regulators, created a task force to assess possible securities law violations involving Wall Street research. The US Justice Department and the Securi-ties and Exchange Comm-ission have also been mooted as preparing for involvement in the debacle.