Merrill Lynch has slashed the number of account executives employed by its subprime production division by 60% (400 positions) since late August, according to former and current employees of the company.One source, requesting anonymity, said FFFC -- which Merrill bought in early 2007 -- now employs 300 AEs nationwide, compared with 700 in the early summer. AEs gather loans through approved mortgage brokers. One AE source said FFFC has 180 AEs working on the East Coast and 120 on the West Coast. He noted, however, that November and December production volumes have been paltry, with Merrill cutting FFFC's menu offerings significantly. A spokesman for Merrill Lynch would only say that "we have adjusted our staffing levels to be in accordance with current business requirements." The Merrill spokesman declined to comment on changes in FFFC's loan menu.

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