The targets of a scathing report suggesting unethical business dealings between Merrill Lynch & Co. and Mark S. Ferber yesterday strongly denied any wrongdoing, and instead pointed the finger at their accuser.

An attorney for Ferber said Massachusetts inspector general Robert A, Cerasoli made his accusations because earlier business dealings he was involved in with Ferber and Merrill had soured. The attorney, Thomas E. Dwyer Jr., also said Cerasoli issued his report "to cover up complaints of criminal action filed against the inspector general this week concerning his alleged release of confidential documents to the press concerning the case."

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