NU Online News Service, July 3, 1:10 p.m. – Investment banks that want to do business with public-employee pension funds in New York, North Carolina and California may have to adopt the conflict-of-interest principles that New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer set down in a recent agreement with Merrill Lynch & Company Inc., New York.

New York State Comptroller H. Carl McCall, North Carolina Treasurer Richard Moore and California State Treasurer Philip Angelides have joined with Spitzer in calling for the investment firms that advise public pension funds to separate their research and banking units, to avoid the kinds of problems that led many securities analysts to go easy on Enron Corp., Houston.

The officials who run the public-employee retirement funds for North Carolina and New York state also say they want money managers that do business with them to disclose portfolio manager and analyst compensation; use of broker-dealers that have adopted the Spitzer-Merrill Lynch principles; and potential conflicts of interest in client relationships.

Money managers would also be required to adopt safeguards against potential conflicts of interest, and to scrutinize the auditing and corporate governance of companies in which pension funds invest their assets.

“The corporate abuses we have seen recently have taken a terrible toll on the integrity of our financial system and have created a crisis of confidence among investors in Wall Street,” McCall says. “Corporate executives must be held responsible for their actions.”

Other principles laid out in the Spitzer-Merrill Lynch agreement include a ban on investment bankers exerting any influence on the compensation of their companies’ analysts and the establishment of in-house committees to review analysts’ recommendations.