WASHINGTON, D.C. - September 10, 2003 - The Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC), which maintains a special reserve fund authorized by Congress to help investors at bankrupt brokerage firms, announced today that it is working to free up 3,000 customer accounts involving an estimated $2 million frozen in the closing this week of Clearing Services of America (CSA), a St. Louis, Missouri-based brokerage firm. The CSA liquidation is linked to the February 2003 failure of New York City-based Park South Securities due to misconduct on the part of owner/broker and television investment personality Todd M. Eberhard.
SIPC petitioned the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri in St. Louis this week to commence the Clearing Services of America liquidation proceeding. U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry appointed attorney Thomas K. Vandiver, Esq., of the law firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLC, to act as a trustee to oversee CSA client assets in the case.
According to SIPC, Eberhard had used Clearing Services of America as a base of operations prior to his involvement with the failed Park South brokerage firm and related entities. On February 5, 2003, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed an emergency action charging securities fraud, including looting of customer brokerage accounts, against Eberhard and his brokerage and investment advisory firms, Park South Securities, a registered broker-dealer and registered investment adviser, and Eberhard Investment Associates, Inc., an investment adviser that was not registered with the SEC. A total of nearly 2,300 customer accounts containing $77 million were initially frozen in the Eberhard/Park South liquidation handled by SIPC.
Clearing Services of America specialized in carrying out trades on behalf of dozens of small brokerage firms around the United States that are too small to do their own clearing. SIPC General Counsel Steve Harbeck saluted the NASD for their efforts in advance of the liquidation to "untangle" about 30 firms and their customers from the failed firm. The result of this NASD effort, according to Harbeck, is that thousands of customers avoided getting caught up in the legal maneuvering that will take place in connection with the Clearing Services of America liquidation.
SIPC General Counsel Steve Harbeck said: "This is an unusual case in that we had domino situation where the collapse of one brokerage firm led to the uncovering of similar problems at another brokerage firm. What we did here was follow the money in the Park South case when it led us to the alleged misconduct in Mr. Eberhard's earlier history. Our goal here is to be as thorough as possible to ensure that the full scope of the damage inflicted by Mr. Eberhard is tracked down and contained. In this context, we want to recognize the collaborative efforts of the NASD and, in particular, that organization's diligent efforts to make sure that as few investors end up being inconvenienced by the CSA liquidation as is possible."
In addition to claim forms that will be provided by U.S. mail, information about the CSA liquidation proceeding will be available online at http://www.sipc.org. Claimants are encouraged to use the SIPC Web site to print out claim forms rather than calling the office of the trustee.