Citi's Top Mortgage Trader to Join Merrill

Jim De Mare joins a team headed by Goldman Sachs alum Tom Montag, one of Merrill CEO John Thain's key hires.
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Lead mortgage trader Jim De Mare has left

Citigroup

(C) - Get Report

to join

Merrill Lynch

(MER)

, according to sources at Citigroup and another firm.

De Mare is the second senior mortgage trading executive Merrill has recruited in recent weeks. Mike Nierenberg, a

Bear Stearns

veteran who served briefly as head of mortgage trading and other securitized products at

JPMorgan Chase

(JPM) - Get Report

, is also expected to join Merrill, according to

Bloomberg

and other sources. De Mare and Nierenberg did not return calls to their mobile phones.

Merrill is retooling its trading business under its new head, Tom Montag, a longtime

Goldman Sachs

(GS) - Get Report

executive who is one of the key hires by Merrill CEO and Goldman alum John Thain.

Though the firm recently sold mortgage-related securities that were underwritten at a value of $31 billion to hedge fund

Lone Star

for about $7 billion, it still has significant mortgage-related exposure. De Mare's and Nierenberg's expertise could come in handy in helping Merrill dispose of those assets, or in brokering trades of newly originated mortgage securities -- a business that continues despite the distressed state of the market.

A call to a Merrill spokeswoman was not returned.

De Mare's departure offers further evidence of a

changing of the guard

at Citi under new CEO Vikram Pandit, as several longtime executives have left in recent months.