On or around 03/18/2005 (Other)
Filing Date: January 21, 2005
On March 18, 2005, the Court entered the Notice of Voluntary Dismissal and Order by Judge John A. Houston. The plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the action without prejudice, and the case was terminated.
The original complaint alleges that during the Class Period, Merrill Lynch made false and misleading statements and omitted material facts concerning its undisclosed financial interests with third party suppliers of annuity contracts. The third parties paid monies and other incentives to have Variable Annuities steered to them by Merrill Lynch without properly disclosing the preexisting arrangement to its customers.
The complaint further alleges that rather than providing independent and unbiased services for clients wanting to purchase Variable Annuities, Merrill Lynch maintained secret contingent fee sharing agreements with a number of insurance company underwriters of annuity contracts. These activities cause insurance companies to collect higher premiums than would be paid absent these arrangements and result in Merrill Lynch customers paying inflated premiums for the Variable Annuities.
According to the press release, a variable annuity is an insurance contract with characteristics causing it to be treated as an "investment" under the Securities Act of 1933. A Variable Annuity contract generally provides that the purchaser agree to a simple "lump sum" premium or scheduled fixed premiums for a pre-set number of years. The premiums are deposited into a separate account after deducting expenses, fees and charges specified in the contract. The premiums thus collected in the annuitant's separate account are available for tax deferred investment in one or more portfolios (called sub-accounts). Upon maturity of the annuity, the annuitant receives payment from the accumulated value in such amounts and upon the terms specified in the underlying investment contract.
Company & Securities Information
Defendant: Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc.
Industry: Investment Services
Headquarters: United States
Company Market: Privately Traded
Market Status: Privately Held
About the Company & Securities Data
"Company" information provides the industry and sector classification and headquarters state for the primary company-defendant in the litigation. In general, "Securities" information provides the ticker symbol, market, and market status for the underlying securities at issue in the litigation.
In most cases, the primary company-defendant actually issued the securities that are the subject of the litigation, and the securities information and company information relate to the same entity. In a small subset of cases, however, the primary company-defendant is not the issuer (for example, cases against third party brokers/dealers), and the securities information and company information do not relate to the same entity.
First Identified Complaint
Jane C. Westbrook, et al. v. Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc., et al.