ENID, OKLAHOMA, 05/14/02
A former employee of Merrill Lynch, Keith Schooley, said today he is not surprised by recent allegations of conflicts of interest in the company’s advice to investors. According to Schooley, the company had a business climate that led to dishonest practices at least as long as ten years ago.

Schooley’s forthcoming book, Merrill Lynch: The Cost Could be Fatal (Lakepointe Publishing, 282 pp. hardcover, $27.95) exposes wrongdoing – including cheating and cover-ups – involving the company that thrives on its reputation as “the broker of Main Street, not Wall Street.” The book, ten years in the making, is scheduled for release in August, but the publisher has rushed advance copies into print because of the recent headlines involving the company.

Schooley began working in Merrill Lynch’s office in Enid, OK a decade ago, eager to embark on a career with the huge, widely respected company. Almost immediately, he says, he was dismayed by a pattern of unethical activities, ranging from cheating on insurance exams to misuse of a proprietary mailing list, misrepresentations in a company-wide new-accounts competition, and falsification of expense reports.

Buoyed by an official company policy that not only encourages but theoretically requires employees to report improper behavior, Schooley informed Merrill Lynch’s New York office about the questionable events, expecting that corrective action would be taken. Instead, efforts were made to keep him quiet, and management denial and cover-ups became more entrenched as the complaints were taken to new levels.

The book recounts in detail the David vs. Goliath battle between Schooley and Merrill Lynch over a period of years. What started as a promising court challenge was forced to proceed as binding arbitration, a contest in which the company held all the cards. The famed lawyer Stephen Jones, who represented Schooley in the early stages, comments in the book that “Keith’s experiences set forth dramatically everything that is wrong, unwise and indeed unhealthy and unfair, about arbitration proceedings.”

This is a behind-the-scenes account that will raise new concerns among Americans who trust Merrill Lynch with their investments. The book should be widely available in bookstores in August. Those wishing to purchase advance copies may do so by telephone, 1-800-247-6553, or on the Web at www.TheCostCouldBeFatal.com.