“Next tobacco” watch: many Wall Street suits fizzle

by Walter Olson on October 14, 2005

After the stock market’s tech-driven bubble popped a few years back, lawyers advertised heavily for burned-investor clients, hoping to reap billions at the expense of Wall Street firms whose research had been exposed as shoddy or worse. But expectations have deflated, and now Pensacola, Fla.’s Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Echsner & Proctor, whose doings are often chronicled in this space, has settled about 300 or so investor claims against Merrill Lynch “for approximately three cents on the dollar”. Although it is far from unusual for plaintiffs to recover sums in arbitration, lawyers have had trouble proving that most of their clients relied on the tainted research in making investment decisions. A Merrill Lynch spokesman claims the firm has “overwhelmingly prevailed in these cases”, while a plaintiff’s lawyer counters that “we are not doing too badly”. (Susanne Craig, “Heard on the Street: Payouts low in research suits”, Wall Street Journal/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Oct. 13). More: Jul. 10, 2003.