CHICAGO - Wells Fargo & Co. yesterday announced the hiring of three veteran public power and two prominent public finance bankers, all drawn from the ranks of former Bank of America-Merrill Lynch staff as part of the firm's ongoing efforts to round out its national public finance team.

The new hires include West Coast banker Rick Chisholm, who will serve as co-head of the nonprofit and education sectors from San Francisco, and Frank Farley, who will serve a co-head of the Southwest region. Both joined the firm as managing directors said Peter Hill, head of Wells Fargo Securities' public finance practice.

Managing director John Norman and two members of his previous energy team at Banc of America Securities, Mark Shea and Tyler Noble, both directors, will work from their Denver base on structured energy and project finance with a focus on municipal utility clients, utility cooperatives, and renewable energy projects.

"The combination of Wachovia and Wells Fargo has resulted in a robust energy commodities practice," said Adam Woodard, head of Wells Fargo Securities' energy and corporate public finance practice. "John and his team are veteran energy and public finance bankers that bring a wealth of expertise to our existing and future clients."

In hiring the three energy specialists, the firm is seeking to capitalize on financing structures created or aided in the federal stimulus program and the slow recovery of the prepaid natural gas supply market - a sector that Wells Fargo wants to expand into.

The prepaid gas market stalled last year as the sector suffered twin blows from turbulent gas prices and the credit market turmoil as the investment banks that act as gas suppliers struggled. The market has begun to open up with Central Plains Energy Project last month pricing $715 million of gas bonds.

Norman is a 30-year veteran of public and energy finance. He spent the last nine years in Banc of America's structured energy and federal finance group and previously worked for Halliburton Co.'s Otis Engineering division. He helped pioneer natural gas prepayments in the early 1990s and has worked on transactions totaling more than $8 billion.

Shea has worked for the last six years as a principal in the same group while Noble had worked also as a principal for the last nine years in that group.

Chisholm joins the firm as a managing director and co-head of the education and nonprofit group in San Francisco while Farley, who is based in New York City, joined the firm as a managing director and co-head of the Southwest team. All five started over the last month.

Chisholm, a 20-year veteran of the higher education and nonprofit sectors, left Banc of America where he served in a similar position earlier this year, at which time sources said he would be joining Wells Fargo after the expiration of his so-called garden leave period following his resignation.

Farley is a 27-year public finance veteran whose focused on Texas and other Southwestern region issuers. Farley previously worked at UBS and Credit Suisse First Boston.

While all the additions most recently worked for Banc of America Securities where Hill had managed the public finance group until January, he said his relationships date back long before he joined Banc of America in mid-2008.

"These are all established professionals that Phil Smith and I have known for a number of years," said Hill said. Phil Smith was Wells Fargo's government and institutional banking and municipal products division head, preceding Hill at Banc of America.

The hires mark the latest in a series of roughly 20 additions the firm has made of mostly veteran bankers to supplement its presence in specific regions and in specialty sectors over the last year as part of its efforts to shape its national team following the consolidation of operations with Wachovia Corp., which it acquired last year.

The bank continues to look to supplement its transportation and health care teams. "Public finance remains slated a growth area for the bank," Hill said.

The firm has about 175 professionals working in the pubic finance practice in 20 offices. In 2009, Wells ranks 10th so far nationally among senior managers, sixth in the public power sector, and 10th so far in the education sector. It ranks 15th among senior managers in the Southwest region and ninth in the nonprofit sector, according to Thomson Reuters.

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