By Ashley Lau
Oct 22 (Reuters) - Bank of America Corp's Merrill Lynch unit said on Monday it hired veteran financial adviser Rebecca Rothstein and her 11-member team from rival brokerage Morgan Stanley Wealth Management.
Rothstein, based in Beverly Hills, California, was a top adviser at Morgan Stanley, where she managed about $2.5 billion in client assets with her team. She joins Merrill Lynch's private banking and investments group, which caters to ultra-wealthy clients.
Rothstein is the latest major departure from Morgan Stanley's U.S. brokerage - partially owned by Citigroup Inc - which has largely been the target of rival firms hoping to win over advisers frustrated with technology glitches and cultural clashes resulting from the merger.
Morgan Stanley confirmed the departure but declined to comment further. A Merrill Lynch spokesman said Rothstein ranks among the top hires for the firm this year, based on client assets under management.
At least 195 veteran advisers who managed more than $28 billion in client assets have left Morgan Stanley Wealth Management so far this year, based on moves tracked by Reuters.
Reuters follows the movement of individual advisers and teams that manage $100 million or more in client assets, which typically translates into $1 million or more in annual revenue production.
Top New York-based broker Jonathan Madrigano, who managed about $2 billion in client assets, left Morgan Stanley to join J.P. Morgan Securities in late September.
Rothstein was a top rainmaker at Morgan Stanley, named to Barron's 2012 list of top women advisers, ranking No. 2 - a position she has held for the past three years.
She joined Merrill as a managing director and private wealth adviser, based out of the firm's Beverly Hills office. She moved with veteran adviser Mark Varo, also a managing director, and two of her four sons, Evan and David Rothstein, who are also advisers on her team.
Rothstein was a well-respected adviser at Morgan Stanley and close to Chief Executive James Gorman, according to sources. She had spoken directly to Gorman on behalf of a group of several dozen top advisers who drafted a letter to the CEO, outlining their concerns, two sources familiar with the conversation said.
Rothstein, whose team has been together for 17 years, was at her old firm for more than a decade, first with Citigroup. She spent about a decade at Alex Brown & Sons prior to that.
Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley Wealth Management are the top two U.S. brokerages, based on client assets and adviser headcount.
The two firms often vie for the same veteran teams. Merrill had 16,076 advisers and about $1.86 trillion in client assets at the end of September. Morgan Stanley had 16,829 advisers and about $1.77 trillion in client assets.