GLOBAL – Peter Coster, president of Mercer Inc., has left the board of troubled Marsh & McLennan Companies along with four other directors as part of corporate governance effort.

Coster, MMC vice chairmen Mathis Cabiallavetta and Charles Davis, senior advisor Ray Groves and Putnam Investments chairman AJC Smith will all leave.

"This step is in keeping with the company's commitment to adhering to corporate governance best practices,” said lead director Robert Erburu. The move comes amid a regulatory probe by New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer that has already cost the job of former MMC chief executive Jeffrey Greenberg.

The board now comprises new president and chief executive Michael Cherkasky and 10 outside board members.

Coster, 64, joined Mercer in 1984 and became president in 1987. He joined the MMC board in 1988. According to, he earned a total of 3.3 million dollars in 2003 and has 14 million dollars in stock options.

MMC also announced that it would defer its decision about its dividend for the first quarter of 2005, “pending completion of its review of Marsh's business model and ongoing regulatory matters”.

Earlier this week MMC’s Putnam Investments arm said it would cut around 100 jobs. Chief executive Ed Haldeman said they were “necessary in order to operate competitively”.

Josh Brooks was named chief investment officer of large-cap equities, in addition to his role as head of global equity research and CIO, core equities.

Portfolio managers Walt Pearson, Cole Lannum and George Maris are to leave and not be replaced.