September 5, 2007 / 8:17 PM / 12 years ago

Merrill to pay $125 million settlement to investors

NEW YORK, Sept 5 (Reuters) - A U.S. judge has approved a $125 million settlement of investor lawsuits accusing Merrill Lynch & Co Inc MER.N of publishing biased research, bringing to $164 million the total Merrill will pay through two pacts.

The long-running lawsuits contended the investment bank and former star technology analyst Henry Blodget issued misleading research reports during the dot-com boom to win lucrative investment banking business.

Merrill agreed to pay $39 million to end three suits brought by mutual fund investors in a settlement that won court approval earlier this year. The bank settled 23 more cases, brought by stock investors, in a pact worth $125 million, plus accrued interest, that was approved by U.S. District Judge John Keenan in a written ruling on Wednesday.

“We are pleased that the judge has approved the settlements we reached in early 2006,” said Merrill Lynch spokesman Mark Herr.

One of the lawyers for the investor plaintiffs, Herbert Milstein of Cohen Milstein Hausfeld & Toll, told Reuters he was “delighted” the settlement was approved, but he had not yet seen the formal ruling.

The judge awarded the investors’ lawyers fees amounting to 24 percent of the settlement fund, or nearly $32 million, as well as about $1.4 million in costs and expenses.

The first of the cases was brought in 2001. The claims against Merrill came at a time when research practices across Wall Street were under fire and hundreds of lawsuits were filed against investment banks and brokerages, accusing some analysts of touting stocks that they sometimes disparaged in private.

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