Virginia has accepted a $1.2 million settlement from Merrill Lynch, the nation’s largest securities firm. An investigation, led by New York, alleged that investment advice by the firm’s analysts was tainted by conflicts of interest.
Virginia is one of 48 states that accepted the terms. Missouri and Arizona have not yet agreed to the terms.
In all, Merrill Lynch agreed to pay $100 million as part of a national settlement negotiated by the New York state attorney general and the North American Securities Administrators Association, a group of securities regulators.
New York settled for $48 million, with the remaining $52 million divided among the states according to population, Ken Schrad, spokesman for the State Corporation Commission, said yesterday. Virginia was 13th on the list, with California and Texas at the top.
Virginia’s portion is $1,179,237. The SCC’s Division of Securities and Retail Franchising will use $179,237 to improve an investor education program. The program provides information about investors’ rights, consumer protections and tips to avoid stock fraud.
The remaining $1 million will be transferred to the state treasurer for deposit in the SCC’s general fund.
Individual investors do not stand to gain from this settlement, Schrad said. It could not be determined exactly who took which advice.
Merrill Lynch admitted to no violation of law, but the case stemmed from charges that research analysts may have misled investors when recommending stocks.