Bank One Corp. appears headed for another restructuring charge as James Dimon moves to close the book on the Chicago banking company's persistent profit woes.
Mr. Dimon, who joined Bank One this month as chairman and chief executive officer, has assured Wall Street analysts that he would move quickly to turn around the fortunes of the $273 billion-asset company.
The changes spurred the resignation of another key executive. Robert A. Rosholt, chief financial officer, said Thursday that he would leave May 1. Aside from the leaders at Bank One's First USA credit card unit, Mr. Rosholt, 50, was the executive most closely associated with the company's four successive profit warnings since last summer.
During a conference call with analysts last week, Mr. Dimon made clear he intended to change the way the company approached its accounting and earnings guidance, saying the company's second-quarter earnings statement would incorporate a more conservative approach to how expenses and capital are allocated to Bank One's businesses. He added that he is reviewing each business and its cost structure with an eye to efficiency.
"Next quarter you can expect some changes," Mr. Dimon said. "I just want to make that clear."
Analysts said the departure of Mr. Rosholt and Mr. Dimon's statements that he wants more conservative financial reporting signal that Mr. Dimon has begun to make his mark on the company.
"It's a sign that [Mr. Dimon] is not going to try to sugar-coat" what's going on at the company, said Michael Mayo, an analyst at Credit Suisse First Boston. "Bank One has been in denial about the full extent of its problems," he said. "It's time for some realism."
Market watchers said Mr. Dimon's intention to change the company's accounting methods, combined with the potential for more layoffs in non-customer-service areas, could lead to a substantial restructuring charge in the second quarter.
"There is a clear impression that there will be charges," said Joseph Duwan, an analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc. Mr. Duwan said this charge could approach the magnitude of the $725 million restructuring announced in December. That restructuring included the elimination of 5,100 jobs.
A Bank One spokesman declined to comment when asked about the possibility of such a charge.
Mr. Rosholt's departure came as little surprise, given the widespread expectation that Mr. Dimon would be putting his own senior team in place. Mr. Rosholt, a 26-year veteran who came to Bank One through its merger with First Chicago NBD Corp., had been chief financial officer since 1993 and was one of the few remaining lieutenants of Verne G. Istock, Bank One's current president. Mr. Istock was passed over in favor of Mr. Dimon for the CEO job made vacant four months ago by the abrupt resignation of John B. McCoy.
"It is the right time for a change for me and for the corporation," Mr. Rosholt said in a brief statement.
Bank One said it would consider internal candidates for the vacancy as well as others in the industry.
The company is seeking to improve its relationship with Wall Street analysts, who have criticized it for the poor advice they were given about the direction of the company's quarterly earnings.
In January Bank One executives including Mr. Rosholt told analysts in a presentation that the company was on course for yearend 2000 earnings per share in the range of $2.80 to $3 - a substantial reduction from previous targets.
In March Mr. Rosholt told analysts they should expect first-quarter earnings to come in at the low end of a range of 60 cents to 65 cents a share. Last week, Bank One announced first quarter profits of 60 cents a share.
Bank One has yet to take back its $2.80 share estimate for this year, but "it was telegraphed pretty clearly that that $2.80 number was out the window," said Nancy Bush, an analyst at Prudential Securities, after Mr. Dimon's conference call.
The market does not believe that number either. Analysts' average earnings estimate has been slipping since the beginning of April, according to First Call Corp. The consensus for yearend has fallen eight cents, to $2.68, as of Thursday.