Worried about a relentless post-crash slump in stock trading, Shearson Lehman Hutton Inc. is laying off hundreds of employees while focusing on the far more lucrative arena of mergers and acquisitions.
Peter A. Cohen, Shearson's chairman and chief executive officer, told The Wall Street Journal in an interview Sunday that 200 employees were laid off earlier this month and more would face layoffs in the next month.Privately, Shearson officials told The Associated Press that total layoffs would reach about 1,000 and most would be completed by year-end.
Securities industry analysts said Monday the layoffs signaled a second round of cost-cutting since the crash a year ago, which led to about 15,000 people losing their jobs on Wall Street.
Shearson already has accounted for about one-third of crash-related layoffs, largely because of its acquisition of the distressed E.F. Hutton Group Inc. late last year for nearly $1 billion. More than 6,000 people lost their jobs in that merger, mostly ex-Huttonites.
Although Shearson officials said the latest round of layoffs would affect all operations, it was clear that retail brokering would be affected most. For one thing, analysts said, that side of the business requires a lot more support staff, such as computer operators and billing clerks, than other areas.
A spokesman for Shearson could not be reached for comment on how the pending layoffs will affect its Utah operations. The investment firm operates six retail brokerages in Utah, employing about 30 people in each office.
The analysts said Shearson's move was a natural result of the profound changes on Wall Street, where investment firms are increasingly getting into the frenzied business of financing deals, often making huge profits.
"What you've got here is a one-legged man," said James P. Hanbury, who follows the industry for Wertheim Schroder & Co., a New York investment firm. "M&A is red hot, while most other lines of business are the opposite."
Shearson, the second biggest U.S. brokerage behind Merrill Lynch & Co., has become an aggressive financier of corporate takeovers and restructurings. Figures compiled by IDD Information Services, an investment industry research and publishing concern in New York, show Shearson ranked first during the first half of this year in number of takeover deals, at 105.