When $1.6 billion of customer money goes missing, you'd think it would be easier to punish someone for it.
Not so at MF Global, the brokerage firm that misplaced the impressive 10-figure sum around the same time that it declared bankruptcy in October. The missing money has since been found, but identifying the parties responsible for the episode has proved more difficult.
As The Wall Street Journal reports this week, many senior executives at MF Global -- including finance chief Henri Steenkamp, treasurer Vinay Mahajan and assistant treasurer Edith O'Brien -- aren't even registered with regulators, meaning they can't be formally charged with a failure to supervise in the missing-money case.
Regulators had been looking especially closely at Steenkamp lately, asking why he claimed at one point to know little about the missing funds when company e-mails show that he was in the same loop as everyone else.
O'Brien, too, has been singled out by people looking into the matter. In March, at a Congressional hearing, O'Brien pled the Fifth Amendment when asked about her role in the transfer of $200 million in customer funds.
But since former CEO Jon Corzine was the only MF Global employee registered with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission last October, neither Steenkamp nor O'Brien can be held responsible for a failure to supervise, the WSJ reports.
Those two may face challenges from another direction, though. James Giddens, the trustee tasked with recovering and returning the customer funds, said last week that he's considering bringing a civil suit against Corzine, Steenkamp and O'Brien for negligence.
With the CFTC's workload about to swell as a result of additional responsibilities, it's unclear how much attention the agency will be able to devote to MF Global's key players anyway. Gary Gensler, chair of the commission, recently expressed dismay over a Republican-backed bill to cut the CFTC's funding by about 12 percent in spite of an expanding duties.
Here is a timeline of MF Global's collapse:
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