Thursday, November 15, 2012

Another Democrat who deserves a cell next to Madoff

House report blames ex-CEO Corzine for sinking MF Global

It was Jon Corzine who sank MF Global last year — bringing financial pain to thousands of investors.
Corzine’s outsize appetite for risk plus his authoritative management style — which stifled challenges — brought down the commodities broker, according to a summary of a report by a House of Representatives subcommittee.
“Choices made by Jon Corzine during his tenure as chairman and CEO sealed MF Global’s fate,” said the chairman of the Financial Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas).
MF’s failure “represents a dereliction of his duty as MF Global’s chairman and CEO,” the report declared.
Among Corzine’s shortcomings as laid out in the report are:
* He created an “authoritarian atmosphere” where “no one could challenge his decisions.”
* He acted as MF’s “de facto chief trader,” allowing him to build a risky European bond portfolio “well in excess of prudent limits.”
* He failed to fully disclose MF’s European bond holdings to federal regulators and the investing public.
In scathing excerpts of a report to be released today, Republican members of the panel also blamed Corzine for a scandalous $1.6 billion shortfall in customer accounts that emerged in the aftermath of the bankruptcy — although they stopped short of saying Corzine should be held criminally liable for the loss.
Instead, the report described the shortfall as the result of MF’s final, chaotic days leading up the bankruptcy.
Employees wrongfully withdrew customer funds because “they did not have an accurate accounting of the amount of customer funds the company held,” the lawmakers found.
They blamed Corzine for that, too.
“The responsibility for failing to maintain the systems and controls necessary to protect customer funds rests with Corzine,” they said.
In the world of commodity and futures trading, customers’ brokerage and trading accounts should be kept separate from a firm’s funds.
Federal prosecutors have been investigating the loss but have yet to make any arrests in the case, and it is unclear whether any will come.
Corzine yesterday took issue with many of the report’s findings, including that he was “authoritarian” and that he took on too much risk.
“At all times Mr. Corzine acted in good faith and did what he believed was necessary to turn around MF Global,” said his spokesman Steven Goldberg.
Indeed, Corzine’s massive trades in European debt, which ultimately led to the firm’s demise, were part of a plan set in place by the board of directors to return MF to profitability, he said.
The subcommittee said it will leave it to prosecutors and regulators to decide whether Corzine or any other MF employee “violated laws or regulations when these withdrawals of customer funds were made.”
But legal experts said the report’s withering conclusions could provide fuel for civil actions against Corzine, who has emerged from MF’s ruins largely unscathed.

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