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SPITZER WARNS OF BIG PENALTY

The price for settling state charges of collusion and bid rigging by the nation's largest insurance broker could be "far higher" than $500 million, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said Thursday.

Spitzer disputed the $500 million settlement figure reported Thursday by The Wall Street Journal as the minimum for any settlement of the attorney general's lawsuit against Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc. Since Spitzer announced the suit Oct. 14, the company's chief executive resigned and outside directors have scrambled to settle the case as its stock plummets.

"The number I saw in the paper is not one that I have heard," Spitzer told The Associated Press after speaking to the Federal Law Enforcement Foundation in Manhattan. "There has been no discussion about a number. It is very premature."

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