A merger specialist who resigned last weekend from E. F. Hutton & Co. is under investigation by the government as a possible source of confidential information used by Dennis B. Levine in insider trading, according to lawyers familiar with the investigation.
Investigators are looking into whether Robert M. Wilkis supplied Levine with advance word of Chicago Pacific Corp.'s 1984 bid to take over Textron Inc. while Wilkis was working for another investment banking firm. Wilkis, who could not be reached for comment, cited personal reasons for his resignation as a first vice president at E. F. Hutton, according to a statement by the firm.
Levine pleaded guilty last week to four felony counts and agreed to pay $11.6 million to settle securities fraud charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission in the largest insider-trading case ever. As part of his guilty plea, Levine has promised to cooperate fully with prosecutors in identifying others who may have violated securities laws.
Levine admitted in court that he purchased 51,500 shares of Textron on Oct. 1, 1984, relying on inside information about the Chicago Pacific bid. The takeover attempt was announced 24 days later, driving up Textron's stock price. Levine later sold his shares for a profit of $200,076, one of the deals that netted him $12.6 million in illegal profits, according to the SEC.
At the time, Wilkis was a vice president of Lazard Freres & Co., which served as an adviser to Chicago Pacific in the takeover attempt.
Levine, a former managing director of Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc., "talked constantly" with Wilkis while Wilkis was at Lazard, a lawyer familiar with the investigation said. The men met in the late 1970s when both worked in the international currency department at Citibank. Before joining Drexel Burnham in 1985, Levine had been a merger specialist at Shearson Lehman Brothers Inc., and several of his former friends in that firm had switched to Lazard Freres about that time.
A Lazard Freres spokesman said Wilkis, 37, did not work on the Chicago Pacific deal, and the firm has no knowledge of whether Wilkis is a target in the investigation. Wilkis is a graduate of Harvard University with a master's degree in business administration from Stanford University. He worked at Lazard Freres from November 1979 to May 1985. The spokesman said Wilkis' name was provided to the SEC as part of a list of individuals who had left the firm in recent years and who had been aware of pending or potential mergers and acquisitions when they left. The spokesman repeated Lazard Freres' statement of Friday that "no one presently employed" and no former partner was involved with Levine.
Wilkis' attorney, Gary Naftalis of Kramer, Levin, Nessen, Kamin & Frankel in New York, declined to comment.
Levine's trading in Textron stock formed the basis of perjury charges against him, to which he pleaded guilty Thursday. The heavy trading in Textron stock preceeding Chicago Pacific's bid triggered an SEC inquiry and, learning that Shearson Lehman had advance word of the deal, it subpoenaed Levine.
On Nov. 14, 1984, he testified to SEC investigators that his information about a bid for Textron was based on a conversation between two strangers he overheard in the reception area of another New York investment firm.
Although Levine told the SEC he had not purchased Textron stock, in fact he was trading in it under a phony name through an account in a Bahamian branch of a Swiss-based bank, he has admitted.