The Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday charged a group of Tennessee investors with secretly acquiring a major interest in a Nashville company using funds advanced to them by the brokerage firm Bache Halsey Stuart Shield Inc.

Last month, according to the suit filed at U.S. District court here, when Bache asked the investors to cover more than $6 million in credit, they were unable to come up with the money.

Bache has been ordered by the SEC to sell the 736,215 shares of stock in the Nashville company, McDowell Enterprises Inc., that it was holding as collateral against the $6 million loan to the investors.

It's unclear what losses, if any, will be suffered by Bache when it seeks to recover its $6 million by selling the stock.

But at the very least, the affair is a further embarrassment to the Wall Street firm. Just last month, as Bache was learning the Tennessee investors were cash short, the brokerage's parent company became publicly embroiled with the Hunt brothers and the collapse of the silver market.

The four Tennessee defendants were charged with violating the antifraud and disclosure provisions of the federal securities law.

Among the allegations is that the four bought the 33 percent interest in the company without disclosing the stock purchases. By law, a group of investors must disclose to other shareholders when its members acquire 10 percent or more of a company's stock.

Named in the unusual SEC suit were E. B. Potts, a vice president of the Nashville brokerage firm Joe M. Cline Associations Inc., which was also a defendant in the suit.

The other defendants were G. P. Rose & Co. Inc., a Nashville dog food manufacturer, and the company's president, 73-year-old Evelyne P. Ragsdale.

All four defendants consented to the court-ordered injunction against further violations of the securities laws, without admitting or denying the specific allegations in the SEC suit.

Bache was not named as a defendant in the case.

As part of the settlement, the SEC ordered shared in possession of the group to be deposited in a Washington Bank.