A New Jersey government securities dealer filed for bankruptcy yesterday, and the Securities and Exchange Commission said savings and loan associations and other financial institutions could lose as much as $140 million as a result.
Bevill, Bresler & Schulman Asset Management Corp. sought bankruptcy protection in Newark federal court, but the SEC promptly filed a lawsuit to block the Chapter 11 bankruptcy and install an SEC-appointed receiver.
Judge Dickinson R. Debevoise said at a hearing yesterday that he would rule this morning on the SEC's petition.
The Livingston, N.J., firm is the second government securities dealer to fail in the last month. The failure of E.S.M. Government Securities Inc. last month caused $315 million of losses nationwide and resulted in a run on privately insured savings and loan associations in Ohio.
Like E.S.M., Bevill, Bresler & Schulman Asset Management Corp. engaged in fraudulent practices, the SEC charged in its lawsuit. The regulatory agency said the firm used securities owned by its customers as collateral for loans to the securities dealer.
The SEC asked the bankruptcy court to force a related company to join in the bankruptcy filing.
The SEC also charged that customers who thought they were doing business with Bevill, Bresler & Schulman Inc., an SEC-registered securities firm, actually had their business passed to Bevill, Bresler & Schulman Asset Management Corp.
The agency alleged that the two principal owners of several affiliated companies using the Bevill, Bresler & Schulman names used funds from Asset Management Corp. to support their private securities trading company. The private company was called Bevill, Bresler & Schulman Government Securities Inc., but was not formally part of the Bevill, Bresler & Schulman corporate structure.
In its bankruptcy filing yesterday, Asset Management listed a $65 million loan from an unnamed affiliate as an asset. Government sources said the loan was to the private trading company owned by Robert L. Bevill and Gilbert C. Schulman. Bevill and Schulman own 65 percent of the other Bevill, Bresler & Schulman companies in which there were three other partners.
Bevill, Bresler & Schulman Inc. reports its financial status monthly to the New York Federal Reserve Bank as a government securities broker-dealer. It is not one of the 36 firms that are regulated by the New York Fed as primary dealers in government securities. The New York Fed said it is investigating.
According to the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, the failed firm's biggest creditor is Great American Federal Savings & Loan of Oak Lawn, Ill., which is owed $30 million. In the E.S.M. failure, the biggest creditor was Cincinnati's Home State Savings Bank, which had an $800 million relationship and apparently lost $145 million.
John Domier, president of Great American, told Dow Jones News Service that the savings and loan thought it was doing business with Bevill, Bresler & Schulman Inc. However, he said, he discovered the orders were passed along to Bevill, Bresler & Schulman Asset Management Corp. Domier said he was trying "with great difficulty and not much satisfaction" to find out the status of the government securities Bevill, Bresler supposedly held as collateral and which were supposed to be on deposit with Bradford Trust Co.
Bevill, Bresler & Schulman Asset Management Crop, in its filing for bankruptcy protection, said its assets were about $500 million on Dec. 31, 1984. But SEC officials said there was a $48 million gap between the $426 million of securities it had agreements to buy and the $378 million it had agreed to sell. The firm also listed as an asset a $65 million loan to an unnamed affiliate.
Congressional sources said Bevill, Bresler's failure virtually guarantees that Congress will take some steps to regulate government securities firms. Five have failed in recent years and their failures triggered losses across the country.
Yesterday, Rep. Tim Wirth (D-Colo.), chairman of the House subcommittee on telecommunications, consumer protection and finance, proposed legislation that would create a rule-making board to oversee government securities trading. The board would regulate government securities dealers and subject them to inspections, books and record requirements.
The New York Federal Reserve Bank is expected to put into effect a "voluntary" regulation system for government securities dealers that, among other things, would set a minimum capital standard for dealers. Not all government securities dealers are unregulated; the biggest ones that act as agents for the New York Fed are scrutinized by that bank. Some others are scrutinized by the SEC. But a large number are unregulated.