88% Recovery Merrill

FINRA Orders Merrill To Pay NJ Couple $165,000 On Research

88% Recovery on “Fraudulent” Research Case

February 24, 2005: 15:53 p.m. EST

NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- A National Association of Securities Dealers arbitration panel ordered Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner & Smith to pay a Closter, N.J., couple $165,000 for “fraudulent” research provided by Merrill Lynch & Co. (MER), according to a New York law firm.

The couple, Richard and Ellen Stein, sought a total of $188,443 in losses related to their investment in Internet Capital Group Inc. (ICGE), the law offices of Stuart D. Meissner said in a press release Thursday.

The couple claimed that they were defrauded by Merrill Lynch as a result of research published by Merrill Lynch and relied upon by their broker in recommending Internet Capital Group to them.

The claim asserted that Merrill Lynch’s research department was conflicted due to the influence of its investment banking department and that, as a result, ” fraudulent” Internet Capital Group ratings were issued and maintained.

Merrill Lynch said in a statement: [The couple] claim they were surprised by the drop in share price, but bought more than 4,000 shares of the stock in two different buys after their initial purchase of 1,000 shares — even though they knew the stock had fallen more than 70% in value since their initial purchase. These facts — which the claimants do not dispute — do not support a recovery.

“We have won the overwhelming majority of these research cases,” Merrill Lynch spokesman Mark Herr said. “This case is clearly an aberration.”

Shares of Internet Capital Group were trading recently at $7.69, up 62 cents, or 8.8%.

-Jenny Park; Dow Jones Newswires; 201-938-5400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com

Dow Jones Newswires 02-24-05 1553ET Copyright (C) 2005 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The Securities Arbitration Law Firm of Meissner Associates has handled numerous claims on behalf of current and/or former employees of AOL / Time Warner involving Morgan Stanley DW Inc. and their former MSDW broker Eric Skigen formerly of the MSDW Bethesda Maryland branch office.

The claims involved current and past America Online / TimeWarner Virginia based employees whose claims included allegations that Morgan Stanley and their broker Eric Skigen used unsuitable speculative AOL option strategies, maintained unsuitably concentrated AOL stock positions and /or failed to recommend appropriate hedging strategies, to assist several of the AOL workers, resulting in millions of dollars of losses for such employees. The current and former employees filed separate FINRA arbitration claims through the Meissner law firm. The current and former employees were early employees of America Online, including computer engineers who originally received millions of dollars worth of America Online stock options and stock.

On March 14, 2005 as per his CRD record, Eric Skigen was “Permitted to Resign” from Morgan Stanley due to “allegations concerning the issue of whether Mr. Skigen’s notes relating to a client were contemporaneous and accurate and his representation concerning this issue.” Mr. Skigen was then hired by Sun Trust Investment Services Inc. in Washington D.C. where he remains employed today. Mr. Skigen’s CRD along with all other broker CRDs can be accessed via the FINRA web site http://pdpi.FINRAr.com/pdpi/.

Subsequent to Mr. Skigen’s departure the Meissner firm successfully sought to inspect MSDW’s computers related to the broker’s computerized notes within the MSDW ACT computer software system, which were produced in the defense of one of the pending AOL claims. After the Meissner firm sought a unique FINRA arbitration panel Order to conduct a computer forensic inspection of MSDW’s computer system MSDW admitted that the computerized notes were in fact created by Skigen years after the 2001 dates stamped on the actual notes previously presented in discovery which were made to appear to be contemporaneous, altering MSDW’s prior representation regarding such issue. The Meissner firm is unaware of any similar mea culpa admission to a panel obtained by any other law firm regarding broker notes, in pursuing an FINRA arbitration claim.

The Meissner firm has successfully handled numerous complex failure to hedge / overconcentration cases on behalf of employees of public companies against brokerage firms, including the well publicized $820,000 award against Banc of America Securities, awarded on behalf of a former Doubleclick employee.

The Meissner law firm, www.Stockesq.com is a nationally recognized law firm with its primary focus being securities arbitration matters, led by former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer prosecutor Stuart D. Meissner Esq. The Meissner firm continues to investigate many overconcentration and failure to hedge cases on behalf of various employees of public companies.