Florida Regulator Seeking Stronger Securities Controls

Article excerpt

TAMPA, Fla. -- Florida Comptroller Gerald Lewis is seeking new laws to strengthen the state's ability to investigate securities dealers and allow his office to hire more investigators.

Mr. Lewis said the proposals were sparked by two recent securities investigations involving the potential loss of millions of Florida and out-of-state investors.

Central to the proposals would be a law requiring quicker decisions by the courts on motions by companies to block the comptroller's subpoenas for records.

Mr. Lewis said the effort is largely a result of his office's inability to obtain financial records from the State Capital Corp., a Boca Raton mortgage broker that was under investigation in connection with its handling of $41 million from 4,000 investors.

State Capital promised investors high interest rates in return for the money, which was to be invested in mortgages on Florida real estate. The company and the comptroller battled for more than two years before State Capital filed for protection from creditors recently under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, minutes before a scheduled court hearing.

Mr. Lewis said his office never got a look at company records because of the ineffective subpoena laws, which permit companies to delay access to records.

Accompanying Mr. Lewis to a Tampa press conference were state Sen. Bob Crawford and state Rep. Mark Gibbons, who have agreed to sponsor legislation that would increase penalties for companies refusing to provide subpoenaed recrods.

The comptroller said the recent collapse of E. …