|November 26, 2012
“I’m no prosecutor, but this reluctance to hold Corzine criminally responsible for what happened at MF Global seems like a crime in itself.”
In the attached article, William D. Cohan reports on what the House Financial Services Committee uncovered about Jon Corzine’s 19 month rein of terror at MF Global.
Over 2 years, Corzine gradually increased his ill-advised bets on European sovereign debt. Along the way he tossed aside anyone who got in the way. From the sound of it, Corzine seemed to think he had a sure thing—which given who he was, was plausible. (Of course even sure things aren’t ever sure.) Goldman Sachs continues to pull strings all over Europe. Corzine was, of course, a former Goldman Sachs CEO. As a former senator and governor, he was also well positioned to benefit from anything that might move things on the government front.
Yet, even with all his privilege and insight his bet went the wrong way, in a big way.
Then, in a desperate effort to save MF Global’s collective posterior, desperate measures were taken. Specifically, client money was taken. It’s still missing, even though it is thought that lots of people know where it went, including MF Global’s auditor.
Unfortunately, civil penalties have done little to deter bad behavior on Wall Street. The report lamely sidesteps the issue of criminal liability in the MF Global debacle, and theNew York Times reported that “federal investigators do not expect to file criminal charges against top executives.”
To anyone who has read the House report, this is a head-scratcher. It states that Corzine made several “fateful”decisions that led to MF Global’s bankruptcy and liquidation, causing billions of dollars in losses for customers, creditors and shareholders. In those “hectic final days,” the report notes, “the company repeatedly transferred funds into and out of segregated accounts, amplifying the risk that it would miscalculate account balances for regulatory purposes.” What’s more, “these risks were compounded by the atmosphere that Corzine created at MF Global, in which no one could challenge his decisions.”
A chronology of MF Global’s death throes prepared by CME Group Inc., the parent company of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, states that at least one MF Global employee believed“Corzine knew about loans made from customer segregated accounts.”