What is in this article?:
- MF Global a year on: reports, investigations and a nervous agricultural sector
- Reports and prosecutions
- It has been just over a year since the collapse of commodities brokerage MF Global and the disappearance of some $1.2 billion -- much of it invested by the U.S. agriculture sector -- in illegally-accessed, and supposedly segregated, customer funds.
- Despite numerous investigations and hearings on Capitol Hill, disgraced MF Global head Jon Corzine and other executives of the brokerage have thus far escaped prosecution.
Reports and prosecutions
On the recent CFTC 400-page report…
“Much in that report was simply adopting the changes already put into place by the NFA: electronic confirmations and read-only access to bank accounts.
“Some of that is good. At the same time, though, it still doesn’t get at the heart of the problem. If we have all these rules and regulations and don’t enforce them, it does no good.
“For example, look at the read-only access to bank accounts. The CFTC is in charge of around 40 of the firms doing this business. Will the CFTC have enough regulators to regulate that? And when they log in and look at an account how will they know what they’re looking at? Are they going to be able to tie it up to some reconciliation report? I don’t think so.
“So, yes, more disclosure between the FCMs (Futures Commission Merchant) and regulators is a good thing – but only if the regulator is competent enough to decipher the result and actually take some action as a result. The CFTC doesn’t have the authority to make some of the changes needed in the commodity industry. That will require congressional authority.”
On the lack of bite in the new rules…
“The adoption of the new rules doesn’t clear the hurdle we need to jump. Some of the (CFTC) commissioners have echoed that sentiment and we’re not at the end of the battle.
“I worry that if we continue to pile on rule after rule and don’t enforce the rules already on the books, we’ll get nowhere.”
CFTC Commissioner Jill “Sommers testified before the Senate Agriculture Committee that, absolutely, if you violate the segregation rules of the Commodity Exchange Act that is a federal crime. Well, we’re a year out and the CFTC has yet to even file civil charges against MF Global. We’re not enforcing the laws that made (MF Global’s actions) illegal in the first place.
“Before we foist a new regulatory structure, let’s just enforce the laws already on the books.”
On Jon Corzine and MF Global executives not facing charges considering the evidence Roe is aware of…
“I’m not surprised the feds haven’t charged anyone.
“There are two arguments. One is that there’s a close relationship between Corzine and some people high up in the federal government. Two, federal investigation take a long time.
“Feds want five years of evidence, wire taps, video -- things they’ll never get in this case -- to get at intent.
“I don’t know which of those two is true. I don’t know if Mr. Corzine’s investigation is being suppressed by friends or whether the feds are simply looking to gather more and more evidence to make a completely air-tight, infallible case.
“The criminal investigation hinges on intent, which is tough to prove unless you have a ‘gotcha’ e-mail saying, ‘Yes, steal customers’ money.’ That will not be found. So, they’ll have to prove a circumstantial case on intent.
“However, the true regulators don’t have to worry about intent. They have to look at the result. And that result is that the segregation rules were broken, the firm went down and customers are still missing money.”
On pushing for prosecutions…
“I’m very surprised that the NFA -- and Jon Corzine was the only NFA registrant at MF Global -- hasn’t brought a case against numerous rules violations in the public domain.
“This week, I’m sending a letter to the NFA’s board of directors, its Business Conduct Committee and their compliance directors asking why they haven’t brought charges in the last year.
“Corzine broke segregation rules, he broke ethical principles of trade, he violated several rules regarding communications with the public in trying to persuade customers to keep their money (at the firm) -- that it was actually being segregated when it wasn’t. Corzine failed to supervise his employees in their transfers and dealing with customer (funds) segregation. They failed to keep adequate record-keeping of those transfers.
“There were numerous violations of NFA rules and, yet, no charges.”
On Corzine’s future plans…
“Corzine has talked about opening up shop again, managing money again. If we allow this guy to handle customer money and segregation again, we all should have our heads examined. We ban people in this industry for a lot less than being the head of the first firm in 160 years to lose customer money in segregation.
“We’re still working on getting the Justice Department to file charges. If they don’t want to move, we’ll continue pushing for an independent counsel. If we can’t get an independent counsel, we’ll look at the state attorneys general and see if they’ll file charges for some of the state laws that were violated.”