Salomon Bros. Wins Back Important Customer : Securities: The World Bank confirms that it will resume dealings with the Wall Street giant. CalPERS may also return soon.
Salomon Bros. on Monday regained one important customer, the World Bank, and may soon get back the business of another, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.
The two clients were among several big institutions that halted business with the giant Wall Street firm last August in protest of Salomon’s admitted fraudulent bidding in Treasury auctions. Return of the two big customers would greatly aid interim Chairman Warren E. Buffett’s attempt to salvage the firm’s damaged reputation.
World Bank Treasurer Donald Roth, reached in Prague, where he is on a business trip, confirmed that the bank decided to resume normal dealings with Salomon. But he declined to comment on the reasons or the timing.
The Washington-based World Bank, which makes loans to developing countries, is among the world’s biggest issuers of bonds. It also buys and sells billions of dollars of U.S. government securities for its $20-billion investment portfolio.
In a one-sentence statement, Salomon said the firm “is pleased to announce that it is resuming its business relationship with the World Bank.” Salomon has been lead underwriter for several World Bank bond issues, including a $2-billion issue in September, 1990.
Also on Monday, DeWitt Bowman, chief investment officer of the California pension fund, said in a telephone interview that CalPERS’ suspension of Salomon “is under review” and that the fund “should be making an announcement shortly.” CalPERS is the nation’s largest state employee pension fund.
Bowman declined to say exactly when a decision will be disclosed, but he indicated that he personally believes that Salomon has taken adequate steps to correct its problems. Bowman said he is “very pleased and encouraged” by Buffett’s swift action to reorganize Salomon’s management.
After word of the World Bank’s decision, Salomon’s stock closed up 87.5 cents Monday at $28.375. The firm’s stock has inched back from its low of $22.625 in October, but it is still well below its 1991 high of $37.
Although the World Bank’s Roth declined to comment, sources in the bank said top officials there also are pleased with tightened controls imposed by Buffett. “The positive and decisive steps taken by Salomon led us to resume business,” one source said.
Salomon in August admitted covertly trying to acquire more than the maximum allowable share of bonds in Treasury auctions and submitting false bids in the names of customers who hadn’t authorized them. Salomon and several former officials are under criminal and civil investigation by a variety of federal and state agencies.
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York still has given no indication whether Salomon will be allowed to keep its designation as a primary dealer of government securities. The prestigious designation, which allows the firm to trade government securities directly with the Fed, has been described by Wall Street analysts as crucial to the firm’s survival.