02/21/2013 08:00 pm ET Updated Feb 21, 2013

Jon Corzine Avoids Lifetime Trading Ban As Regulator Punts To Feds

NEW YORK -- A private market regulator refused to ban former MF Global chief Jon Corzine from trading with other people’s money Thursday, rejecting a motion brought before that body's board of directors to do so.

The National Futures Association's decision is a blow to a vocal group within the commodities trading world who -- noting that Corzine has not been held accountable by the government for alleged crimes -- wanted to see him publicly upbraided by his peers in the market.

Corzine was CEO of commodities broker MF Global in October 2011, when the firm collapsed, causing about $1 billion in losses to consumers whose money should have been safely guarded in separate accounts. In spite of congressional testimony accusing Corzine of breaking the law in the firm's final weeks, he has not been charged with any crime and is rumored to be raising cash to start a commodities-focused hedge fund.

Christopher Hehmeyer, chairman of the private regulator the National Futures Association, said in a statement that the board of the organization "understands that there are ongoing investigations concerning Mr. Corzine's activities at MF Global and does not wish to take any action that could interfere with those investigations. Once the appropriate agencies have completed their investigations, NFA has the authority to bring disciplinary action against Mr. Corzine.”

Hehmeyer also noted Corzine had lost his membership in the organization following MF Global’s collapse and said, “If Mr. Corzine applies for membership in the future, he will not be granted membership unless NFA, after completing its fitness investigation, resolves those issues to its satisfaction.”

In deferring to ongoing government investigations, the NFA rejected the arguments made by members of the futures trading community who had said the organization needed to place a “lifetime ban” on Corzine in order to uphold the integrity of the markets.

John Roe, one of the directors who presented the motion before the board Thursday told The Huffington Post prior to the NFA’s meeting that market participants “just need to know that someone, somewhere holds people accountable. If that fails to happen, we need to do something.”

"If the NFA is going to let folks like that off, after they caused the first loss in consumer funds in segregation in the history of the United States, that's very concerning," Roe said.

James Koutoulas, another director who presented the motion Thursday, posted a message on Twitter just before the meeting stating he was “sick of our government hiding behind ridiculous excuses to protect criminals. Enough is enough. NFA needs to do what the government refuses to.”

Koutoulas declined to comment on Thursday's meeting, citing confidentiality agreements.

That Corzine's peers in the futures market should seek to ban him from associating with them professionally is only the latest in what has been a long fall from grace for the former Democratic governor and U.S. senator from New Jersey. Before his political career, Corzine led Goldman Sachs in the 1990s and helped take that investment firm public, to the awe and adulation of Wall Street.

The failure of the motion to ban Corzine from the markets did not come as a complete surprise to its supporters, however. Wednesday, Reuters led an article examining the proposal by noting it “faced an uphill battle."

Members of the NFA, according to Reuters, are loath to be seen as one-upping the Commodities and Futures Trading Commsision, the government regulator of the futures industry, which is conducting an investigation of Corzine. The federal Department of Justice is also investigating the matter.

"The last thing you want to do is ... jeopardize somebody else's ongoing investigation," Scott Cordes, an NFA board member, told Reuters.

Prior to the meeting and the board's decision, Roe admitted, “We may not be able to get done what we want to get done, but we need to buck the system and do something.” He declined to comment Thursday.



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