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ML Wins Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Award

Merrill Lynch won the Human Rights Campaign's 2007 Corporate Equality Award for its commitment to employees who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, and for the company's growing national practice focused on the financial needs and aspirations of the LGBT community.

Bob McCann, president of Global Private Client, accepted the award on behalf of Merrill Lynch at the Campaign's gala dinner in New York on February 10.

In accepting the award, Mr. McCann — who is co-chairman of the firm's Diversity & Inclusion Council along with Greg Fleming, president of Global Markets & Investment Banking — spoke of the company's dedication to equality and social progress. Mr. Fleming also is executive sponsor of the LGBT Professional Network.

"We are among the first Wall Street companies to provide comprehensive and equal domestic partner benefits, and we remain the only wealth management firm with a national LGBT financial services team — dedicated to serving the needs of individuals, families and not-for-profit organizations in this community," Mr. McCann said at the dinner.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, thanked the firm for its commitment. "Allies like Merrill Lynch are making a strong investment in equality," he said after the dinner. "Because of leaders like Merrill Lynch, today more than half of the Fortune 500 companies now offer domestic partner benefits to their employees. "

Global Private Client executives at the dinner included SVP Dan Cochran, chief administrative officer, who also serves as senior advisor to the LGBT Professional Network; MD Colbert Narcisse , chief operating officer; MD Michael O'Looney, head of Corporate and GPC Communications; Lyle LaMothe, managing director of the Northeast Division; Brian Sepe, managing director of the New York City region; and Joseph Mattia, managing director of the Fifth Avenue Financial Center in New York.

Members of the LGBT Professional Network's steering committee also attended, as did Director Theresa Torres, of GMI's Diversity team, and representatives of Global Infrastructure Solutions, Leadership & Talent Management, the Office of General Counsel and the Chief Financial Office.

"I'm very proud that all of our firm's hard work to develop this business segment, along with our internal policies, has garnered such respect in the LGBT community. I hope that this award is only the first of many," said Todd Sears, a former financial advisor based in New York and leader of the national LGBT Financial Services Team. Mr. Sears has just been appointed as the Northeast Division's diversity manager.

In the past five years, LGBT business has been "one of the most successful diversity business initiatives that we've had," he added.

He said the nine-member national LGBT financial services team works with more than 120 financial advisors who either have LGBT clients or want to focus on the LGBT community, so far in Washington, D.C., Dallas, southern Florida, Chicago, New York, Denver, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Financial Advisor Carol Meyer, a member of the LGBT financial services team who is based in Dallas, said GPC has had success in that city over the past 18 months. "One of our clients said it best: We are bringing our money to Merrill Lynch because you not only support our efforts financially, but you also really genuinely believe in our issues," she said.

As an example of that success, Ms. Meyer cited clients of hers and Mr. Sears, Susan Spalter and her domestic partner, Penny Youngblood, who moved their investments to Merrill Lynch in November 2006 after reading an article about Mr. Sears's estate planning work.

"There's a comfort level that you can't describe because you have the ability to talk with advisors who truly understand the difficulty of your situation to be able to get some degree of protection that is afforded to any other married couple," Ms. Spalter said later in an interview from her home in Dallas.

Besides the Corporate Equality Award, Merrill Lynch received a perfect score last fall on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's Corporate Equality Index, for workplace policies and procedures that have created an inclusive work environment for LGBT employees.

"H.R.C. is arguably the most visible and powerful LGBT organization, so this award is very significant," said VP John Dalrymple, of GPC's Office of Diversity, who is co-leader of the LGBT Professional Network. "It is a testament to the work of the many financial advisors, recruiters, professional network members and allies who have given their time and commitment toward making real change in the workplace and toward raising the profile of the company to that of a recognized leader in the industry and in the LGBT community."

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