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April 1, 1998

At Deadline - Custody

By John A. Byrne

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. is reportedly negotiating the sale of its custody and clearing business with Chase Manhattan Corp. The price tag is said to be more than $600 million. If the deal succeeds, Chase will acquire Morgan's $400 billion worth of institutional assets under custody, as well as a roster of correspondent firms.

The deal comes in the wake of Morgan's own acquisition of Dean Witter Discover & Co. and the absorption of Dean's securities, asset management and credit card services businesses which Morgan wants to grow. Prior to the merger, custody and clearing were plum business lines at Morgan though the firm in recent years had shed some clearing accounts.

About three years ago, Morgan dropped about 15 correspondents that did not meet certain profit parameters, leaving the firm with 60 accounts. Some staff were handed pink slips. Morgan's latest move in the clearing business comes at a time when regulators are more closely watching other firms that clear and execute trades for correspondents, or introducing brokers.