Feds Sue Corzine and MF Global

     MANHATTAN (CN) – Federal regulators on Thursday civilly charged Jon Corzine with failing to stop MF Global from dipping into customers’ money when he was its CEO, before the company collapsed.
     The Commodity Futures Trading Commission sued MF Global Inc., MF Global Holdings Ltd., Corzine and Edith O’Brien, who was MF Global’s assistant treasurer.
     MF Global collapsed in October 2011, and then couldn’t account for what it had done with more than $750 million of its customers’ money.
     After the collapse, Corzine, a former governor of New Jersey, was accused of running the company in an arrogant manner and placing bad bets that horrified his underlings, particularly on European sovereign debt.
     The CFTC says in its federal complaint: “It has long been a cornerstone of customer protection laws that a commodity futures broker, known as a futures commission merchant (‘FCM’), must at all times segregate customer funds intended for futures trading on U.S. exchanges (‘customer segregated funds’) and may never use these customer funds for the FCM’ own purposes. When an FCM knows or should know that accounts holding customer segregated funds (‘customer segregated accounts’) do not hold sufficient funds to meet the FCM’s financial obligations to all customers, the FCM, through its responsible personnel, must immediately notify the CFTC and the applicable designated self-regulatory organization (‘DSRO’). To safeguard customer funds further, CFTC regulations limit an FCM’s ability to invest customer funds to certain authorized investments. In this case, MF Global Inc. (‘MF Global’), an FCM with deficient systems and controls, on the brink of failure and in desperate need of cash to survive, invaded its customer funds and violated these fundamental customer protections on a scale never previously seen in the U.S. futures markets, harming thousands of people. As alleged below, Jon Corzine, the Chief Executive Officer (‘CEO’), is legally responsible for MF Global’s misuse of customer money. Edith O’Brien, MF Global’s Assistant Treasurer, is also liable.”
     The complaint adds: “Corzine joined the Firm as the CEO for Holdings in March 2010. He planned to grow and convert the Firm from a business that generated most of its revenue from its FCM to a major Wall Street investment bank that generated revenue from proprietary trading and other business lines. As part of that plan, and to increase revenues, Corzine caused MF Global to make significant investments in various instruments, such as the sovereign debt of certain European countries. Over time, at Corzine’s direction, these investments grew substantially and became a material portion of the Firm’s balance sheet, even as the investments grew increasingly risky.
     “By the latter half of 2011, these investments and other factors placed significant strains on the Firm’s capital and liquidity. By late October 2011, the Firm’s sources of cash were drying up, and the Firm was in desperate need of funding to survive. The Firm took steps to sell itself to another financial services company. Firm employees, including Corzine, communicated with one another, sometimes by email and sometimes on recorded telephone lines, concerning the Firm’s dire situation.
     “During the last week of October 2011, in violation of U.S. commodity laws, with virtually no other sources of cash to keep it afloat, MF Global unlawfully used nearly one billion dollars of customer segregated funds to support its own proprietary operations and the operations of its affiliates. Thousands of customers were directly and indirectly harmed by these unlawful acts. On October 31, 2011, Holdings and certain other affiliated companies filed for bankruptcy protection.
     “Corzine bears responsibility for MF Global’s unlawful acts. He held and exercised direct or indirect control over MF Global and Holdings and either did not act in good faith or knowingly induced these violations. In violation of his legal obligations, he also failed to supervise diligently the activities of MF Global’ s officers, employees, and agents.
     “Defendant Edith O’Brien (‘O’Brien’) was the Assistant Treasurer of MF Global and the head of liquidity management for the Firm. O’Brien directed, approved, and/or caused numerous illegal transfers of customer segregated funds to the Firm’s proprietary accounts, and otherwise aided and abetted MF Global’s customer segregated fund violations.
     In addition, from at least January 2011 to May 2011, MF Global misused customer segregated funds by investing these funds in securities that were not considered readily marketable or highly liquid, in violation of a CFTC regulation.”
     The CFTC seeks disgorgement, restitution and penalties.

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