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Corsine: “I never intended to break any rules.”

Ex MF Global CEO Jon Corsine did not tell Congress he didn’t break rules, just that he didn’t mean to. Which leaves him much weasel room, should it be shown he did. Yet Sarbanes-Oxley requires that CEOs sign off on financial matters. Ignorance is not an excuse, except perhaps for Corsine, who is an ex Goldman head, senator, and governor. We shall see if we still have a functioning legal system (and if it becomes clear to the majority of the populace that we don’t then we will see riots in the streets, of that, I’ve no doubt.)

Bruce Kasting has digging into the MF Global story hard, trying to determine where the $1.2 billion vanished to. Here’s his take.

  • MFG is sinking. Clients are demanding their money be transferred out.
  • MF Global orders its bank (possibly JPM) to transfer the money.
  • The transfers are made.
  • In a highly unusual procedure, the bank sends a Letter of Indemnity to all institutions receiving the money, requesting it be sent back. The LOI indemnifies the institutions against possible problems.
  • The transfers are sent back.
  • BUT, the money goes into unrestricted MFG accounts not the client accounts. IOW, it is commingled, all in the terrible fog of war as MFG is going down. Pass me a hanky, this is all so terribly tragic.
  • Then, poof, the money disappears.

To claw-back a wire transfer requires significant human intervention. Banks do not write LOIs without carefully considering the consequences. There’s always a signature on an LOI……

MF Global. $1.5 billion in customer accounts missing

Inadvertently prescient ad from MF Global

Former Goldman co-chair, US Senator, and NJ Jersey governor Jon Corsine is the CEO of MF Global. In my opinion, he belongs in prison.

NYT sums it up:

The CME Group, a major exchange where MF Global traded until this week, said on Wednesday that Mr. Corzine’s firm had appeared to transfer client money sometime last week ““in a manner that may have been designed to avoid detection,” a serious violation of Wall Street regulations. MF Global did not disclose the shortfall in client money to CME or to regulators until early Monday morning, shortly before the firm filed for bankruptcy.

Bruce Krasting on MF GLobal’s missing money

This happened with another big future’s house back in 2005. That was Refco. In that case there were significant client account losses. Of historical interest:

-Phil Bennet, the boss at Refco, went to jail for 12 years.
-Man Group bought what was left of Refco (they were good futures brokers).
-Man became MF Global. Rinse and repeat.

The history is relevant as it is more evidence that Corzine and MF management HAD to know that commingling was the ultimate no-no. It was part of their history.

Of course any financial company CEO, most especially someone who used to co-run Goldman, knows that commingling is illegal.

Taibbi:

From what I gather, Corzine essentially reached into the company cash register to pay off his gambling debts. He didn’t have enough money of his own to fight off the wolves, so he took the money he had access to, in a desperate, insane hope that his bets would eventually turn around and he could replace the missing cash later on.

Well, it’s always better to claim stupidity or panic and not culpability. Krasting suggests that big banks creditors, seeing that the insanely overly leveraged MF GLobal was cratering, simply took the money out of customer accounts (is this even legal?) yet CME says MF made the transfers. At this point we don’t know what happened to the money, the thefts might have been ongoing and only uncovered as the incredibly risky and stupid gambles MF took blew up in their greedy little faces. More importantly, who did the money go to?

MF global client theft estimate doubled to $1.5 billion?

This is outright theft resulting from illegally commingled accounts. Our only question is will $1.5 billion in theft be enough for the first real perp walk of an Obama-friendly Wall Street executive?