What is in this article?:
- Senate Agriculture Committee delves into MF Global collapse.
- Trio of MF Global executives -- including former head Jon Corzine -- claim ignorance on "lost" customer funds.
- Corzine contradicted by later testimony.
In the dark
Addressing Corzine (who was joined by the firm’s Chief Financial Officer Henri Steenkamp and Chief Operating Officer Bradley Abelow), North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad said trying to “pierce the veil” surrounding MF Global was proving “incredibly” difficult. And it quickly became obvious that -- despite hours’ worth of congressional testimony and weeks to consider their past actions -- the firm’s lawyered-up and subpoenaed executives were simply unwilling to help the committee shed light on the situation.
Seeking a “direct answer” Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss simply asked Corzine if he knew MF Global was using “customer funds to carry out proprietary transactions?”
Corzine claimed he was unaware of the “misuse” of customer funds, a word he used regularly. “I didn’t authorize it, didn’t intend to have it happen.”
A combative Roberts, ranking member of the committee, asked the panel a series of questions regarding MF Global actions in the days just prior to the discovery of “lost” customer funds. Did the firm receive margin calls “or other requests for liquidity on Oct. 28?”
Corzine: “I believe there were margin calls as there are on almost every day.”
Roberts: “Well, you indicated publically that $4.5 billion went out the door.”
Corzine: “I’ve repeatedly said that there was $4.5 billion worth of U.S. government agencies sold on that day. That was a sale designed to produce margin coming back to the firm as opposed to margin going out of the firm.”
Roberts: “We’ve heard a lot of 35-cent words being tossed around. ... We may not understand the ins-and-outs of it, but two things we do understand are margin calls and chain of command.
“We know customer money was accounted for on (Oct. 26). On (Oct. 28), the firm’s cash flow situation was dire and demands for cash kept coming in.”
Roberts asked Abelow and Corzine if it was the case “that MF Global didn’t have enough cash on hand to cover the cash needs that came in late (Oct. 28).”
Corzine: “From all reports that I’d received, to my recollection on that day, we were able to meet our cash demands.”
Abelow again claimed to be in the dark. “I do not recall being made aware of our running out of cash ... and being unable to meet obligations.”
Roberts dug farther, asking about the possibility that “operational money movers ... was told to cover the liquidity needs or margin calls overwhelming the firm’s cash flow by taking money out of the segregated customer accounts?”
Corzine: “I don’t believe anyone would operate that way. We had no experience in the 19 months I’d been there that anyone had overridden those systems. I have no reason to believe that occurred in those last hours.”
Abelow refused to “speculate about conversations I didn’t see or participate in. I can only tell you I don’t recall participating in any conversation about use of customer funds or assets other than for their intended purposes.”