According to a press release dated February 1, 2007, Merrill Lynch & Co. won approval Wednesday of a $40.3-million settlement of three lawsuits over claims it provided misleading analyst research about Internet companies. U.S. District Judge John Keenan in New York approved the deal reached after investors appealed the 2003 dismissal of two of the cases. Keenan also awarded $9 million to lawyers who represented almost 400,000 investors who sued. Investors won 6.25% of the $645 million in damages they sought, which Keenan said was "at the higher end" of the percentage of recoveries in class - action securities suits. The lawsuits were brought on behalf of shareholders in three Merrill mutual funds: the Internet Strategies Fund, the Global Technology Fund and the Focus Twenty Fund. The firm issued falsely optimistic research reports, and fund prospectuses failed to disclose investments in companies with which Merrill sought banking business, the investors claimed. Merrill was named in dozens of investor lawsuits in 2002 after the firm issued what the investors said were misleading research reports about Internet companies. U.S. District Judge Milton Pollack, who died in 2004, dismissed many of the actions, saying the individuals who sued were "high-risk speculators" who wanted to "twist the securities laws into a scheme of cost-free speculators' insurance." An appeals court upheld most of the dismissals. In February 2006, Merrill paid $164 million to settle 12 cases pending in the trial court and 11 on appeal.
On December 23, 2002, the Court entered the Case Management Order #1 consolidating several related actions under In re Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc. Global Technology Fund Securities Litigation, 02-CV-7854(MP). A Master file was established under In Re Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc Research Reports Securities Litigation: 02 MDL 1484. On March 14, 2003, an Amended Complaint was filed. On July 7, 2003, the Court entered the Decision and Order dismissing the Plaintiff's Consolidated Amended Complaint with prejudice. On September 8, 2003, the Court entered the Decision and Order #15 denying the plaintiff’s motion for an order altering the Court’s dismissal of the Consolidated Amended Complaint. On September 17, 2003, the plaintiffs filed an Notice of Appeal. On October 24, 2006, the Court entered the Mandate of the U.S. Court of Appeals withdrawing the appeal because a settlement was reached in the Multidistrict Litigation action, 02-MD-1484. ccording to the Notice of Pendency dated October 11, 2006, the settlement fund is in the amount of $39 million in cash.
This action arises as a result of the issuance by the defendants of shares in the Fund, and concerns material misstatements and omissions by defendants in the Prospectus, relating to defendants' conflicts of interest, which include but are not limited to the following: (1) defendants failed to disclose and omitted material information that Merrill Lynch had had investment banking relationships with, including having brought public, certain of the companies whose securities were part of the Fund's portfolio. Defendants disclosed neither this general fact nor the identities of the particular companies with which it had investment banking relationships. (2) defendants failed to disclose and omitted material information concerning that Merrill Lynch was continuing to seek investment banking relationships with many of the companies whose securities were part of the Fund's portfolio; and (3) defendants failed to disclose and omitted material information concerning that a material part of the total compensation paid to Merrill Lynch research analysts was based upon obtaining investment banking business for Merrill Lynch and not upon the accuracy of their research about a given company. Hence, Merrill Lynch and its affiliated companies including the Fund recommended investments in and/or invested in companies in order to enhance Merrill Lynch's opportunity to obtain investment banking business from those companies (without regard to whether they were good investments for the investors including plaintiffs and the Class).