WASHINGTON, Nov 14 (Reuters) - MF Global's collapse and the loss of an estimated $1.6 billion in customer money was triggered by former CEO Jon Corzine's poor management decisions and lax protections for customer funds, a congressional investigation has determined.
The findings of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight will be spelled out in a report to be released on Thursday.
In a preview of the report, the panel's chairman, Rep. Randy Neugebauer, said on Wednesday the evidence unearthed by the committee puts the blame squarely on Corzine, who has denied any wrongdoing.
"The responsibility for failing to maintain the systems and controls necessary to protect customer funds rests with Corzine," the report says. "This failure represents a dereliction of his duty as MF Global's chairman and CEO."
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Lost Customer Funds Found
James Giddens, the trustee overseeing the liquidation of MF Global, told the Senate Banking Committee in April that $1.6 billion worth of lost customer funds had been found and his analysis <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/25/mf-global-missing-customer-money-accounted-for_n_1452128.html?ref=business" target="_hplink">"is substantially concluded,"</a> CNNMoney reports.
Jon Corzine Takes the Reins at MF Global
In a big turning point for the brokerage firm, in 2010 MF Global Holdings hired Jon Corzine, a former chief executive at Goldman Sachs, former U.S. senator and former Governor of New Jersey. Corzine returned to the financial industry after losing his gubernatorial reelection bid to Chris Christie in 2009.
Leveraged Bets on European Debt
Jon Corzine made risky moves in his mission to turn MF Global into a big Wall Street player. After a period of aggressive trading didn't earn the profits Corzine had hoped for, the firm delved into the foreign debt market, making $6.3 billion worth of large and heavily leveraged bets on distressed sovereign debt in troubled European countries like Spain and Italy.
Europe's economy continued to melt. MF Global investors panicked when they caught wind of the billions in leveraged bets, and on Oct. 31 MF Global filed for bankruptcy. It was called the first American financial casualty of the European debt crisis.
During the firm's collapse, federal regulators discovered that $630 million in customer money couldn't be accounted for. A federal investigation ensued, and forensic accountants found the amount was actually closer to $1.2 billion. Experts suspected the client money was used inappropriately for company purposes.
The investigation shed light on Jon Corzine using his personal influence in Washington to lobby against restrictions on how firms can invest customer money.
On Nov. 4, four days after the firm filed for bankruptcy, Jon Corzine voluntarily stepped down. He had not been accused of any wrongdoing.
'MF Global Rule'
In early December federal regulators adopted the 'MF Global rule' to prevent other firms from using client funds to buy sovereign debt. Regulators restricted the transaction that allowed MF Global to borrow money from its own customers.
Corzine Testifies Before Congress
On Dec. 8 Jon Corzine testified before Congress on the missing money. Speaking to his former colleagues in the Senate, Corzine said he was "stunned" by the missing client funds. He offered an apology but said, "I simply do not know where the money is."
Corzine testified that he didn't know any customer money was missing until the day before the firm filed for bankruptcy. But a financial executive<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/13/jon-corzine-testimony-_n_1146192.html?ref=business " target="_hplink"> claimed</a> Crozine "was aware" of a $175 million transfer from customer accounts to a European affiliate of the firm.
$200 Million Transfer Of Customer Funds
Ex-CEO Jon Corzine allegedly authorized the transfer of around $200 million in customer funds to pay down an overdraft just days before the firm collapsed, <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-24/mf-global-s-corzine-ordered-funds-moved-to-jp-morgan-memo-says.html" target="_hplink"><em>Bloomberg</em></a> reported in February.
Pleading The Fifth
MF Global executives <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/28/mf-global-hearing-executives-millions-customer-funds_n_1386701.html" target="_hplink">denied having significant knowledge of an authorized transfer of around $200 million</a> in customer funds to avoid an overdraft. Edith O'Brien, an executive who wrote an email about the transfer at the time, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/28/former-mf-global-executive-edith-obrien-5th-amendment_n_1386210.html" target="_hplink">invoked the Fifth Amendment</a>.