Bullish On Japan

For Merrill and others, bank scandals have opened doors

Back in 1978, Merrill Lynch & Co. had big dreams of selling stocks, mutual funds, and financial advisory services to rich Japanese investors. But it underestimated how hard it would be to lure the Japanese away from local brokers despite their unscrupulous practices, sky-high fees, and dismal returns. Merrill also misjudged the willingness of the Ministry of Finance to allow foreigners into Japan's markets. Defeated, Merrill closed its six retail branches in 1993. But now it's back, betting that the failures and scandals shaking Japan's financial-services industry will finally give it an opening. Its aim, says Merrill Lynch Japan Inc. Chairman Hisashi Moriya, is to be "Japan's most trusted financial adviser."

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