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Wall St. Firms To Learn Fate

Nov 22, 2002 | NY Daily News State regulators and Wall Street firms are meeting one on one today, Monday and Tuesday to discuss the fines they'll have to pay for a host of sins.

These three days will likely determine whether a global settlement about conflicts of interest with some of the biggest brokerage firms holds together.

Banks and regulators have met for more than a month with SEC enforcement chief Stephen Cutler and state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

"Given the size of the numbers they're talking about" it's an important part of the process, said John Duffy, CE0 of Keefe, Bruyette & Woods.

For hyping the stocks of investment banking clients and other infractions, 10 firms including Citigroup and Goldman Sachs will likely have to cough up a total of $1 billion, which will help fund independent research.

The amounts of the fine will depend on the severity of the infractions, sources said, with Citigroup likely to have to write the biggest check.

Firms and regulators have discussed how to ensure investors receive independent stock advice.

This could include placing an ombudsman at each firm, who could buy and distribute outside research that would be given to the firm's clients alongside its own analysis.

Meanwhile, the reform process, which may be nearing a conclusion, has made a hero and a goat of Spitzer.

The New Republic this week features Spitzer on its cover. In a glowing tribute, the mag describes him as a "reformer with a large personal stake in preserving 'the system.' "

Using a more menacing Spitzer caricature and a "Witch Hunt" headline, Forbes claims Spitzer "mischaracterized and exaggerated evidence in his investigation of Merrill Lynch."

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