The downturn in the economy has prompted Putnam Investments of Boston to lay off 256 workers, about four percent of its 6,000 employees, according to a memorandum issued last week by Lawrence J. Lasser, Putnam's CEO and president, to company employees. The memo was released to the public.

The cuts will be made across the board and will include senior level executives as well as administrators, portfolio managers and analysts, according to Laura McNamara, a company spokesperson. Approximately half the cuts are in administrative positions, she said. The layoffs will not affect company officers, she said.

"Over nearly 20 years - since the 1982 bull market first began - Putnam has grown significantly, virtually every year," said Lasser, in his memo. "The market changes which began last year have unwound some of that growth - for Putnam and for the entire money management industry."

The company, which is traded publicly as part of the Marsh & McLennan Companies, has suffered from a steady decline in assets since last August, McNamara said. By the end of February, assets under management had dropped $82 billion from last August when they were $425 billion, she said. Senior management has been considering cuts for a while, she said.

"This is something that we've been looking at just because of the decline in equity markets and the decline in assets," McNamara said.

Lasser recently renegotiated his contract with Marsh & McLennan, extending it until 2005, according to a company proxy statement filed March 29 with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The compensation package included in Lasser's contract is valued at $15 million. In addition, Lasser received a $33 million bonus in 2000, according to the proxy.

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