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Investment Banks Report May Boost Lawsuits

Dec 22, 2002 | FT.com

Leading Wall Street banks that misled investors are bracing themselves for the release of potentially embarrassing details that could boost claims against them totalling billions of dollars.

The details will be keenly awaited by investors following the historic settlement on Friday between a coalition of state and federal regulators investigating conflicts of interest on Wall Street, and 10 investment banks that agreed to pay nearly $1bn in penalties.

The conflicts of interest centred around tainted stock research and initial public offering practices.

Regulators will detail in a "record of findings" the meat of the evidence they collected against the banks after months of reading their e-mails and internal memoranda and questioning executives.

The reports, due next month, are crucial because their contents are expected to boost the class action law suits filed against the banks by investors. Some legal and financial analysts have predicted that the damages to Wall Street firms could surpass $5bn.

The findings may also signal which individuals could face prosecution as Eliot Spitzer, New York attorney-general, and the Securities and Exchange Commission turn attention from the institutions to their executives.

Regulators reached an agreement in principle with Jack Grubman of Citigroup's Salomon Smith Barney unit once one of the highest paid analysts on Wall Street who will pay $15m and be barred for life from the securities industry. Massachusetts authorities have referred evidence to federal prosecutors against Frank Quattrone, the head of Credit Suisse First Boston's technology banking group.

Even for those who avoid charges, the contents of the findings could fuel civil law suits filed against them and damage their professional reputations.

Regulators will begin meeting on Monday as they continue working with the banks on the final language of the findings.

Mr Spitzer and other regulators are already struggling to dispose of the $900m in fines they are to collect from the banks. Mr Spitzer and Steve Cutler, director of enforcement at the SEC, pledged on Friday to work towards a restitution fund but acknowledged it might be impossible to achieve.


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