Merrill Lynch settles stock-research lawsuits

/ Source: The Associated Press

Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. will pay $164 million to settle 23 class action lawsuits related to its analysts' activities and research coverage of Internet companies during the boom and bust of the dot-com era, the company said Friday in a regulatory filing.

In a report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said the settlements are subject to further negotiations on the terms and conditions, and must still be approved by the courts.

The plaintiffs in 11 of those cases agreed to drop appeals that were filed to reverse previous motions to dismiss granted by lower courts.

The settlements leave only two class action suits remaining against Merrill Lynch and the company said it plans to defend against those suits "vigorously."

Merrill Lynch will amend its fourth quarter results to include a $170 million charge for the cost of the settlements, which will reduce fourth-quarter earnings by 10 cents per diluted share and full-year 2005 earnings by 11 cents per diluted share.