Merrill Lynch’s image has taken a huge hit. So has the value of the company.

Now the firm is wondering what it can do to help restore its once golden image and regain public trust.

One way, it believes, is hiring Rudolph Giuliani as a spokesperson.

According to brokers at the firm, Merrill is conducting a poll, asking the general public, including clients, if the firm should hire Giuliani in the aftermath of the $100 million fine it paid to settle charges that it misled investors with biased stock research.

“It’s really not a bad idea [hiring Giuliani],” says a Merrill rep. “There probably isn’t anyone in the country more well liked and respected than Rudy Giuliani. What this shows is that Merrill is doing everything it can to rectify a terrible, disastrous situation. This firm has to clear [its] terribly stained image. I mean, when the value of the company has dropped nearly $10 billion, well, you have to do something.”

Giuliani may have already helped Merrill out of a jam. When the New York State Attorney General was investigating Merrill for biased research, Giuliani put in a call to the AG’s office and may have been instrumental in helping negotiate the settlement. Many industry sources, including brokers and attorneys, say Merrill was let off easy with a $100 million fine—“and it was likely because of Giuliani,” a rep says. If Giuliani wasn’t involved, several sources say the fine could have been in the billions of dollars.

According to Merrill brokers, the public is being asked how favorably it would view a statement from Giuliani, saying that he knows the people at Merrill and that the firm can be trusted.

Merrill confirmed that it is performing a poll, but would not reveal details.

Giuliani has enormous popularity. In a poll taken last month, 82 percent of those polled said they had a favorable opinion of the former New York mayor.

``Of all the people Merrill could possibly get, I can't think of anyone better than Giuliani,” says another Merrill rep. “The way he handled matters on Sept. 11 and beyond was simply incredible. I can’t imagine anyone not having a favorable opinion of him. If anyone can help Merrill regain the public’s trust, it’s him.”