Putnam Investments is firing four mutual fund money managers for timing trades in their own international and global funds, reaping themselves more than $700,000 in profits, Reuters reported early Friday morning. All four have been asked to leave, although the fate of another two, who also engaged in market timing, but not in their own funds, is still up in the air. Nancy Fisher, a spokeswoman for Putnam, indicated that further details about the six money managers would be made later on Friday.

The startling news comes on the heels of a report Thursday that Smith Barney fired four more brokers as a result of its internal probe into market timing. A Smith Barney spokeswoman confirmed the brokers had been fired, but declined to name them. However, a source told Reuters they all worked in New York.

Meanwhile, Securities and Exchange Commission Enforcement Director Stephen Cutler told CNBC Thursday night that the commission is finding rampant evidence of fund managers timing their own funds. Calling the practice "disgraceful," Cutler promised, "Those people will be charged appropriately in enforcement actions."

The firings at Smith Barney follow the firm’s decision Oct. 2 to terminate a New Jersey broker for canceling fund trades as late as 15 minutes after the market’s close (see MME 10/3/03). Smith Barney CEO Sallie Krawcheck cited the illegal practice in a memo to Tom Matthews, head of the private client division, according to Reuters. Smith Barney has not been cited by New York or other state regulators who, in tandem with an investigation by the SEC, are looking both at fund companies and their brokerage partners for illegal or unethical fund trades.

However, a number of companies cited in regulators’ complaints have fired executives in the past month. Prudential Securities has fired 12 brokers. Alliance has fired two of its fund managers. Janus, has dismissed an undisclosed number of its fund managers, and Bank of America has fired its mutual fund director and three brokers. Bank One has also replaced two executives who resigned rather abruptly, including One Group President Mark Beeson and John AbuNassar, head of the institutional asset management group.

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