Sandler O'Neill Fights Back

A Third Of Its Employees Are Missing

Investment banking firm Sandler O'Neill not only lost a third of its employees on Sept. 11, but its entire headquarters operation, including the crucial records and equipment it relied on to do business. But with the help of other Wall Street firms and the flinty resolve of its remaining 100 staffers, it reopened for business. 60 Minutes was there to record its first shaky but determined steps. Steve Kroft reports.

For managing partner Jimmy Dunne, in charge of getting the company up and running again, it's war. "They attacked the United States of America, the capitalist structure that we flourished under. They attacked our little firm, they killed our friends," he tells Kroft. "So this is like combat right now," says Dunne, rallying staffers as they return to business at temporary offices donated by Bank of America.

60 Minutes first joined Sandler O’Neill a few days after the attack, when most of its remaining 100 employees were regrouping at its midtown office branch. Of 171 employees, 66 were missing. The company plans to continue paying the salaries and possibly the bonuses of those victims at least through the end of the year, but the task that day was to try to locate them and relay any information to their families. It was a grim and futile job. "It was just incredible that 66 people could be missing and nothing…they were gone," says Dunne.

Six days after the attack, on Sept. 17, Sandler O'Neill’s first hours in business were frantic, as phones didn’t work and a rumor that the firm was out of business circulated. Dunne went on television to dispel the rumor, the phones were fixed, and by the end of the day, the firm had made its first deal since Sept. 11. Says founding partner Tom O’Neill, "I don't think we appreciated the depth of [the terrorists'] hatred, but I think for every percentage that we might have underestimated them, I think they very much underestimated us."

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