NEW YORK — Two former Merrill Lynch executives were charged Thursday with taking kickbacks from contractors during construction in the mid-1980s of the brokerage firm's lavish headquarters in Manhattan's World Financial Center.
One of them, Albert Young, 61, the official in charge of Merrill Lynch's move, allegedly received at least $140,000. The illegal payments from contractors were said to include cash delivered to him personally at the new building, payments to a shell company in the Bahamas and money for improvements on Young's country home in Pennsylvania. Contractors also allegedly provided him with regular use of a stretch limousine and chauffeur.
Court documents charge that construction companies and suppliers were told that they had to pay kickbacks to get contracts on the project. The headquarters occupies much of a new high-rise building overlooking New York harbor.
Young was named in a four-count criminal information filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. John Serino Jr., a former Merrill Lynch vice president, and Marvin Weiner, an alleged associate of Young's who didn't work for Merrill Lynch, each had a single felony charge filed against them. A federal prosecutor said all three waived indictment, which usually means the defendants plan to plead guilty.
Edward Spiro, a lawyer for Young, declined to comment on whether his client may plead guilty. But he noted that Young entered a not guilty plea before a federal magistrate. He said Young denies ever having been bribed in connection with his employment at Merrill Lynch. Serino's lawyer failed to return a call seeking comment Thursday. Weiner's lawyers refused to discuss the case.
Patrick Murphy, a former New York City police commissioner who now is director of security for Merrill Lynch, said the firm first discovered irregularities when vendors and some Merrill Lynch employees complained to company officials. Murphy said the firm investigated and then notified the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Murphy said Young resigned from Merrill Lynch in 1988, shortly after receiving a subpoena from federal prosecutors. He said Serino lost his job with the firm in 1989 as part of companywide layoffs. Murphy said the firm didn't suspect at the time that Serino was part of the illegal scheme.