Morgan Stanley Trying to Lure Away Merrill Brokers

Morgan Stanley, which currently employs only 8,000 brokers, is targeting the massive Merrill Lynchbrokerage sales force in a major recruitment drive, CNBC has learned.

With 16,000 brokers, Merrill is looked at as the New York Yankees of the private client business. It's the largest and widely regarded as the most professional brokerage network on Wall Street.

But quarter after quarter of successive losses, writedowns and the need to raise capital have tarnished the firm's reputation—particularly among its high-net worth clients.

For that reason, people at Morgan say top Merrill brokers who never even returned their calls are now in active negotiations to leave Merrill for Morgan. This is a big problem for Merrill Chief Executive John Thain, who has identified the brokerage business as a growth area for his firm.

A spokesman for Morgan would only say that the firm is actively recruiting brokers and that the firm is not targeting any firm.