Law Firm Launches Investigation into Merrill Lynch ESOP

The recent turbulence at Merrill Lynch, including the negative outcomes on the financial giant’s stock price, has already drawn the scrutiny of ERISA litigators.

The New York law firm of Harwood Feffer LLP announced that it has commenced an investigation on behalf of participants and beneficiaries of the Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc. Employee Stock Ownership Plan “…for violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) in relation to the handling of investments in the Plan by certain named and unnamed administrators and fiduciaries.”

According to a press release, the firm is focusing its investigation – as nearly all of these so-called “stock drop” cases do – on whether “…the Company and certain Plan administrators breached their fiduciary duties of loyalty and prudence to the Plan and its participants by, inter alia: (a) misrepresenting and failing to disclose material facts to the Plan and the Plan participants in connection with the management of the Plan’s assets and (b) permitting the Plan to be invested in Merrill Lynch common stock when it was imprudent to do so.’

On Saturday morning Keller Rohrback also announced an investigation involving “…concerns that Merrill Lynch and other administrators of the Plan may have breached their ERISA-mandated fiduciary duties of loyalty and prudence to participants and beneficiaries of the Plan.”

These company stock investigations generally serve as an opportunity for the law firms to find participants whose accounts have ostensibly been hurt by the drop in stock price. In fact, the press releases from both law firms solicit questions from plan participants that hold shares of Merrill Lynch common stock in their retirement plan.

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