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Merrill Asks State High Court to Review Transcript Ruling

Reuters

Merrill Lynch & Co. has asked California’s high court to review a decision to release thousands of pages of transcripts from a criminal probe of the role the company played in the months before Orange County’s 1994 bankruptcy, officials said Tuesday.

Merrill Lynch spokesman Bill Halldin said the Wall Street investment giant had, as expected, asked the California Supreme Court on Monday to review a decision by a state appeals court that cleared the way for some 5,000 pages of secret grand jury transcripts to be made public.

“We’re fighting for what we believe is a very important legal principle--protecting the privacy of innocent grand jury witnesses when there’s been no indictment,” Halldin said in a telephone interview.

An Orange County grand jury investigated Merrill Lynch in 1996 and 1997 over its sale of millions of dollars in county debt during the summer of 1994, only a few months before the county declared bankruptcy after it lost more than $1.64 billion when a bet on interest rates backfired. But the grand jury abruptly halted its investigation last June when Orange County Dist. Atty. Mike Capizzi announced a $30-million settlement with Merrill Lynch.

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Media organizations subsequently requested that the grand jury transcripts be released.

Thousands of pages of testimony taken in the county’s recently settled civil suit against Merrill Lynch were released last week at the urging of The Times and other news organizations.


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