The big cleanup on Wall Street continues as another former Merrill Lynch ( MER) stock analyst was charged Wednesday with issuing misleading research reports and getting cozy with one of the companies he covered. The NASD charged Phua Young, the Merrill analyst who had covered Tyco ( TYC), with a variety of misdeeds, including tipping off institutional investors to his rating changes, giving Tyco executives a sneak peek at his research reports and giving an expensive bottle of wine to former Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski, who is currently awaiting trial on tax fraud charges. But once again -- as has been the case in many Wall Street analyst investigations -- the most damning evidence against Young, who was fired from Merrill last year, is his own email messages. In a number of emails cited by the NASD, Young refers to himself as being "indirectly paid by Tyco" and being a "loyal Tyco employee." It appears Tyco executives rewarded Young, who often maintained a buy rating on Tyco shares, for his loyalty. The NASD alleges that the analyst flew multiples times on Tyco's corporate jets for business trips, sometimes accompanied by Kozlowski. And in a particularly bizarre episode, Tyco, at Young's request, hired a personal investigator to prepare a background report on one of Young's friends. The overall portrait that emerges from the NASD complaint is one of an analyst all too eager to please executives at one of the biggest companies he covered. An example of Young's research were reports in which he predicted Tyco could fetch upto $12 billion in last year's spin-off of CIT Group. Young made those claims, even though he privately told others that CIT would never sell for that much and that Tyco's stock was overvalued. The CIT deal eventually sold for $4.6 billion.
"The conduct of this analyst, as evidence by his own emails, gifts to the CEO of Tyco and favors he received from the company amounted to a betrayal of objectivity and honesty in research," said Mary L. Schapiro, NASD vice chairman and president of regulatory policy and oversight. Young's attorney, Ed Little, could not be reached for comment. In April 2002, Merrill fired Young for violating a firm policy that prohibits analysts from giving selected investors a heads-up on research reports and changes in stock recommendations. At the time of his firing, Young was earning about $2.5 million in total annual compensation. After his dismissal, sources say, Young initiated an action against his former employer seeking to collect some of the salary he contends he was owed. Young's dismissal from Merrill, however, largely went unnoticed because it occurred around the same time Merrill was embroiled in a bigger analyst scandal involving its former Internet guru Henry Blodget. Merrill ultimately paid a $100 million fine to settle allegations that Blodget and other tech analysts at the firm issued misleading and biased research reports. The Merrill probe subsequently led to a sweeping regulatory inquiry into the activities of Wall Street stock analysts and investment bankers at a dozen Wall Street firms. Earlier this year, 10 of those firms, including Merrill, settled that investigation by paying $1.4 billion in fines and other fees.
But Young's alleged misdeeds began making news last summer when they were alluded to in one of the indictments filed by New York prosecutors against Kozlowski. In the indictment, prosecutors charged that Kozlowski pressured Merrill executives in 1991 to hire Young to replace another analyst who had been critical of Tyco's performance. The indictment also alleged that Kozlowski and Young had exchanged gifts over the years. The NASD says those gifts included expensive bottles of wine and champagne.