Investment banker Bear Stearns & Co. has agreed to purchase the subprime production arm of ECC Capital Corp., Irvine, Calif., for an undisclosed amount.Encore Credit Corp. -- the nation's 24th-largest subprime funder, according to the Quarterly Data Report -- will operate as a separate division of Bear Stearns Residential Capital Corp. Shabi Asghar, ECC's president and chief executive officer, will be president and CEO of the Bear division after the sale closes. The investment banker will also take control of Encore Credit's operating centers in Irvine; Downer's Grove, Ill.; and Glen Allen, Va. ECC lost $25 million during the first six months of the year. Most of Encore's production is sourced through loan brokers. A few months ago, National Mortgage News first reported that Encore was for sale. Bear's purchase of the subprime funder is just the latest in a string of nonconforming franchise purchases by traditional Wall Street firms.

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