The Chase Manhattan Bank, still reeling from last spring's failure of Drysdale Government Securities Inc, today filed suit seeking damages of up to $855 million against Drysdale, the securities firm which held its stock, and Arther Andersen & Co., Drysdale's accountants.
In a separate suit also filed today, Manufacturers Hanover Trust Corp., joined Chase in claiming it was illegally victimized by allegedly improper government securities trading by Drysdale, and is seeking damages totaling $96.3 million.
Both banks claim that on Feb. 1, 1982, Drysdale Government was insolvent by at least $135 million, but the securities firm represented that the value of its stock was $5 million. In addition, the suits said that while reporting debt and equity of $20.8 million, Drysdale was able to leverage that into a government securities position of $5 billion.
Chase and Manufacturers Hanover, the nation's third- and fourth-largest banks, said they would not have done business with Drysdale Government Securities without having received the firm's financial statement, which was approved by Arthur Andersen, the public accounting firm based in Chicago. "Andersen knew or recklessly disregarded facts which it had a duty to investigate," Chase charged.
A spokesman for Arthur Andersen said the firm had not yet reviewed the suit, and would refer it to legal counsel.
The failure of Drysdale Government Securities, a firm established in February to handle specialized trading in government issues, led to the failure of Drysdale Securities, a 92-year-old brokerage firm, whose chief officers formed the government securities firm.
Both Drysdale firms are out of business and it is considered very unlikely that Chase and Manufacturers Hanover could recover from them the substantial damages they are seeking. But Arthur Andersen is one of the "Big Eight" accounting firms -- a giant in the industry -- and the banks presumably expect it will have either the funds or the insurance coverage to handle claims if the banks' suits succeed.
The failure of the tiny government securities firm to cover interest payments of close to $300 million in May set off a near panic on Wall Street. Chase's stock subsequently tumbled and questions were raised about trading practices throughout the massive government securities market.
Chase was forced to take a second quarter after-tax loss of $117 million, and Manufacturers Hanover suffered a loss of $8.8 million that quarter because of their roles as agents for Drysdale's trades.
Chase's pre-tax losses totaled $285 million and that is the amount it is seeking. The bank's suit does not break that total down into specific damage claims against the various defendants. Chase is seeking triple damages under federal racketeering laws from all the defendants except Arthur Andersen.
Also named in the suits was Buttonwood Management, a trading firm which the Chase suit said "solicited and arranged" the trades and "knew of the wrongful conduct" of the other defendants.
In addition, Joseph V. Ossorio, chairman of Drysdale Securities and a director of Drysdale Government, and Peter J. Wasserman, president of Drysdale Securities, and also a director of the associated firm were named, as is David J. Heuwetter, sole officer and director of Drysdale Government. Heuwetter is the flamboyant trader who built Drysdale's government securities business.
According to the suit, Drysdale Securities, Ossorio, Wasserman and "others as yet unknown," provided Heuwetter with $5.5 million to purchase 550 shares of Drysdale Government. They also provided another $10.3 million to Heuwetter which he purportedly used as a loan to Drysdale Government.