CHICAGO -- Rodman & Renshaw Inc. has begun the process of rebuilding its municipal bond department after losing a number of people over the last year.

Executives at the Chicago-based securities firm said that several hires have been made in the sales and trading areas, where the firm has lost several people, and a new research effort is underway as well.

David Shulman, managing director of institutional fixed-income investment at Rodman, said yesterday the firm is rebuilding the areas to better serve institutional customers.

Lewis Hodge, a senior vice president in the municipal bond department at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Securities Corp., came to Rodman earlier this month as a senior vice president in Chicago.

In late April, Mitch Asch, a founding partner of broker-dealer Asch Dwyer Municipal Securities, joined Rodman as a vice president and manager of trading and research in New York City.

Matthew Dalton, an institutional salesperson at Lehman Brothers, was named vice president and sales manager at Rodman in Chicago earlier this month.

The Chicago office also hired John Tibbs, a former salesperson at Lehman, now a vice president, and Fred Shorter, an assistant vice president in sales. In New York, Rodman also hired Tom Ward from Merrill Lynch & Co. as a vice president in trading.

The municipal operation will be headed by Hodge, Asch, and Dalton, Shulman said.

Two to three more salespersons will be hired for Rodman's Chicago office, while up to five may be hired for New York, Hodge said.

Asch said the research department will be a first at Rodman and that he expects to hire two senior research people. "This is going to be a research-driven secondary trading operation," he said.

The rebuilt department still does not have a public finance staff. Its last public finance official, J. Bradford Crow, left Rodman's Los Angeles office last month to become director of public finance at Prager McCarthy & Sealy's Los Angeles office.

At the end of 1993, Crow was the only remaining public finance executive left at Rodman after public finance professionals in the firm's Chicago and Kansas City offices left. The firm also lost a number of municipal salespersons.

The departures came during a tumultuous time at Rodman, which was in the throes of negotiations with its ultimate purchaser, ABACO Casa de Bolsa, a subsidiary of ABACO Grupo Financiero of Monterrey, Mexico. The firm was also hit with complaints alleging sexual harassment and racial discrimination. The harassment complaints cost Rodman a slot as co-manager on a state of Illinois bond issue last year.

In December, ABACO acquired 51% of Rodman's stock and the following month instituted a management shake-up that saw four top executives fired. In April, Shulman was promoted to head the fixed-income operation.

Hodge, who is in charge of Rodman's public finance efforts, said there are no immediate plans to hire public finance professionals. He said that a lot of work first needs to be done in areas such as sales and research, adding that he hopes to begin hiring public finance professionals by the end of the year.

"We want to turn the firm around and make it the pride of Chicago if not one of the best in the nation," Hodge said. "That's our goal."

Meanwhile, the position of Thomas Basehart, a senior vice president and manager at Rodman for a number of years, is unclear. Shulman said Basehart is no longer the head of the municipal department and Basehart's "role will be determined shortly."

Basehart could not be reached for comment.

April Hattori contributed to this article.

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