The trend of dissident shareholders' winning board seats at thrift companies continued last week when First Federal Savings and Loan Association of East Hartford, Conn., announced that two activist investors had been elected directors.

Welles C. Hatch and Robert T. Williamson, who were nominated by Josiah T. Austin, were elected to the 10-member board with 54% of the votes cast at the company's recent annual meeting. Mr. Austin owns roughly 9% of the company's shares.

James D. Shelton, chairman and president of $1.1 billion-asset First Federal, said he is skeptical of the motives of the new directors, who will serve until 2003.

"When you're outside you can make statements and you can cast stones, but once you're inside you can't just serve your own interests," he said.

This episode is just one in a series of victories for activist shareholders. Last month, $2.4 billion-asset Bank Plus Corp. got three new directors - all from dissident groups, which together own about 35% of its stock. The Los Angeles company has been under pressure to sell since 1998, when it lost $56 million due to troubles in its subprime credit card portfolio.

Similarly, $121 million-asset PS Financial Inc. in Chicago and $2.9 billion Haven Bancorp in New York were recently forced to grant seats to dissident shareholders.

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