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Jobs lost at two ex-Fleet units

Bank of America reportedly makes cuts at Hub office

Bank of America Corp. has quietly eliminated the majority of former FleetBoston Financial Corp. employees on the 12th floor of its Boston headquarters, including much of Fleet's treasury and global capital markets divisions.

The cuts have emptied out a large portion of the desks over the last month, as workers left the bank or moved on to assignments in other cities, according to several current and former employees who declined to be identified.

One employee estimated there are about 100 people left, less than one-third of the employees who worked there just a few months ago, describing the floor as "desolate." Many of the workers remaining are scheduled to move out soon.

Since Bank of America's acquisition of Fleet closed in April, consolidations have claimed jobs across Fleet's ranks, including its human resources, finance, marketing, information technology, and legal teams. Bank of America has said it will eliminate 12,500 jobs nationwide, though it will not say how many of the layoffs will occur in New England.

Bank of America refused to confirm the job cuts in the two departments yesterday. Executives have said they have no plans to provide any detailed information about layoffs as a result of the merger. "We're only confirming the total number 12,500," said Eloise Hale, a Bank of America spokeswoman.

But state Representative John Quinn, chairman of the Joint Committee on Banks and Banking, said the bank owes Massachusetts more accountability.

"People's jobs and families and incomes are on the line," said Quinn, Democrat of Dartmouth. "Being vague and less than forthright is not the way to do business. They say, 'Don't worry about it. We're still going to have a big presence in Boston.' They ought to back up their words."

Treasury departments vary from bank to bank, but at most institutions they manage the money the bank takes in, including loans and deposits, and reinvest it. They also manage risk in the bank's portfolio. Fleet's treasury department included a group of traders who bought and sold securities.

In Fleet's treasury department, the cuts also meant the end of Wayne Ayers's position as Fleet's chief economist, and most of his small department of about five people. Their last day was Friday.

"It's bittersweet," Ayers said. "In a way, it's liberating, but you don't leave any place or building without very mixed emotions."

Fleet's global capital markets staff, also on the 12th floor, included a currency trading floor once crucial to the bank's Latin American operations. But now, most of the traders have moved to new jobs in New York and Charlotte, according to Fleet employees who worked with them. Bank of America opened a state-of-the-art trading floor in Charlotte this month, complete with curved acoustic ceiling panels that resemble sails on a sailboat.

Several people involved with the decision said Bank of America plans to keep a portion of its sales staff in Boston and will continue to take orders for currency trades.

The current and former employees who provided the account of the job cuts declined to be quoted by name because they did not want to anger Bank of America executives. Several said they have been warned not to speak to the press.

Bank of America has agreed to keep employment flat in New England over the long term, but it plans to cut some jobs and move others to the Northeast.

The bank has now told all of its employees whether their positions will be eliminated, the bank's vice chairman, James Hance, said in an interview last week. But he said many of the displaced workers may still be able to find jobs in other departments.

The bank plans to headquarter several key divisions in Boston: asset-based lending, commercial leasing, small business banking, premier banking, and wealth management. Those moves will bring Bank of America employees to Boston from across the United States, but the bank has not said publicly how many people will move here.

At the same time it is cutting jobs in treasury, Bank of America has tapped Fleet's Joseph Dewhirst to be its corporate treasurer. Bank of America's treasury department is based in Charlotte, a spokeswoman said.

As it combines operations with Fleet, Bank of America also is stressing its commitment to maintaining the same number of New England employees overall. But to date, higher-paying jobs have been eliminated, and most jobs that have been added are lower-paying back-office jobs.

Bank of America, which outsourced some human relations work to Fidelity Investments this month, said it intends to count the 375 jobs created in that deal toward its Northeast commitment -- even though the new employees actually will work for Fidelity.

The gains in call center and back-office jobs will come in Marlborough and Merrimack, N.H., where Fidelity already has operations. Those jobs tend to be at the lower end of the pay scale.

Some elected officials said outsourced jobs should not count toward Bank of America's employment commitments.

"I don't know how they can count jobs that may be created by other companies as Bank of America employment," said Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut's attorney general, who has publicly pressed the bank to make more detailed commitments on lending and charitable contributions. "We would not regard employees of other companies as bank employees."

But his state has been lucky: He said Bank of America has promised that Connecticut will suffer no layoffs.

The bank also said this month it will pay $500 million in severance and relocation expenses for Fleet employees. Since banks tend to grant severance to mid- to high-level executives when they leave, the figure shows that Bank of America expects an exodus of a large chunk of Fleet's Boston management team.

In other moves that could ultimately mean a loss of high-paying jobs in New England, Bank of America chief executive Kenneth D. Lewis has said he is looking for good areas to open new bank branches. The bank also said its introduction of a streamlined mortgage product, Loan Solutions, will create customer service and processing jobs throughout the Northeast. All those new, lower-paying jobs likely would count toward Bank of America's promise to New England.

The bank spokeswoman, Hale, would not comment on whether the bank would pack New England with low-paid employees to keep its pledge. But she said the bank intends to live up to its overall promise.

"We will meet our commitment," she said. "Employment levels will drop in the short term, but we will over time grow employment levels."

Sasha Talcott can be reached at stalcott@globe.com.

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