Local investment banker brings youth, zeal for 'Bush agenda' to new SEC post

April 26, 1992|By Thomas Easton | Thomas Easton,New York Bureau

New York -- At 6 o'clock one recent morning, J. Carter Beese Jr. leaves his home in Baltimore County's Green Spring Valley, flips on a tape of John Kenneth Galbraith's "The Great Crash," and as the story of how Wall Street wrecked America plays in the background, heads off for the Securities and Exchange Commission in downtown Washington.

It's been this way, with one meaningful tape or another, since March 9 when the Alex. Brown & Sons investment banker was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to be Wall Street's representative to the SEC, the primary regulatory body for the nation's security industry. He was sworn in Monday at the White House by Vice President Dan Quaylewith his wife, two children and former Alex. Brown associates looking on.

Some people might mock the vice president, but not Mr. Beese. Only 35 years old, he is a man on the move -- one of the youngest commission members ever, with an avowed mission to advance the "Bush agenda."

That agenda -- or lack of one -- has been the source of much skepticism. But Mr. Beese, a believer, articulates the agenda in its most utopian form: Cut unnecessary regulations to retain business and encourage growth, without compromising the integrity of U.S. financial markets.

"If you look at the 1980s, there was a role for regulation -- we are paying a price now for its absence," he said. "But at the same time, you constantly want to make sure that by your actions, you're not unnecessarily burdening the market place, or, in today's global market, the activity will just go off shore."

Whether that goal is achievable and at what cost, are questions against which the SEC and Mr. Beese will be judged. That, in turn, could have an impact on whether he is just another of the nameless faces that have dotted the commission since its Depression-era founding, or whether he emerges as something more.

The potential is large. He is among a group that entered the securities business in the late 1970s and early 1980s and adeptly rode one of the all-time booms. Now, still under 40, they can reflect back on careers that have earned them vast sums and allowed them to play a significant role in the nation's economy through their control over the flow of money to many companies.

Among that group, Mr. Beese has gained added visibility.

Cited in his swelling resume, and his statement to the Senate on file at the SEC, is an article in Institutional Investor, a well-read trade publication, pegging him as one of the next generation of financial leaders. The article elaborates: Mr. Beese "could end up running the Treasury Department before the decade is out, because of the skillful way he has blended global finance and national politics in his career."

Asked about the future, Mr. Beese responds with a politician's finesse: "I find answering that question a bit of an exercise in futility. Given the securities industry, it's impossible to figure out what the world will look like four years from now."

He does, however, acknowledge that he will remain in the world of finance. That was the one point of consternation in the Senate hearings because of the potential for conflicts of interest, particularly amid indications he might return to Alex. Brown after his term expires in June 1996.

That is just one of the firms he has been involved with that may have SEC dealings.

In an attachment to his application, he notes 52 potential conflicts of interest, ranging from major companies like Bristol-Myers Squibb, IBM and Marriott, to mutual fund companies (Dreyfus, T. Rowe Price), securities firms involved in leveraged buyouts (Warburg Pincus & Co., Carlyle Group), banks (Maryland National Bank, First National Bank of Maryland, Sovran, Riggs National Bank), and money managers with swashbuckling styles (Steinhardt Partners, Mutual Shares).

The flip side: His experience with such companies may give him an understanding that many in the investment business say has been lacking on the SEC.

"Typically," said Edward Mathias, managing director of Baltimore-based T. Rowe Price, "the commission is weighted to lawyers and theoreticians. Carter is at the other extreme. He is familiar with markets and the [securities] industry finds that very appealing. It gives a balance to the commission."

Unlike many financiers, Mr. Beese also has some familiarity with the workings of government enforcement agencies. His family came from Baltimore but moved to New Jersey while his father worked in counter-espionage for the FBI. On Mr. Beese's office wall is a congratulatory letter that the late FBI director J. Edgar Hoover wrote his father on the occasion of the younger Mr. Beese's birth.

Following Catholic high school, Mr. Beese attended Rollins College in Florida, an unlikely breeding ground for financiers. But he made at least one valuable connection: Marvin Bush, the son of a politician on the way up.

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