What is in this article?:
- Jon Corzine, former head of the failed investment firm MF Global, was subpoenaed to appear before the House Agriculture Committee. Having run MF Global when a suspected $1.2 billion worth of customer funds – including accounts of many in the agriculture sector – went missing, Corzine walked into the hearing surely knowing he’d be roughed up.
- Committee members ensured that expectation was realized. But Corzine invited more scorn with weaves and dodges in both his opening statement and answers to questions.
What, when, how?
Did Corzine authorize a transfer of customer funds from segregated accounts?
Corzine: “I never intended to break any rules, whether segregation rules or any of the other (applicable) rules.”
Oklahoma Rep. Frank Lucas, committee chairman, asked if Corzine is aware “of any transfers, authorized or unauthorized, of funds out of customer accounts?”
Corzine again tried to wiggle off the hook, claiming distance from any such occurrence. “I’m not in a position, given a number of transactions, to know anything specifically about the movement of any specific funds. And I will repeat: I certainly would never intend to direct or have segregated funds moved.”
As for how he could have unintentionally encouraged the comingling of customer and firm funds, Corzine provided weak tea. “Someone could misinterpret ‘we’ve got to fix this’ – which I said the evening of Oct. 30” when he first learned of the “lost” funds.
What role did Corzine personally play in monitoring the segregation of MF Global’s customer funds?
“My role was primarily to bring assurance to myself on an ongoing operating basis that we had the people, policies and procedures in place to maintain that segregation,” said Corzine. “At least until those last few chaotic days, I felt comfortable we’d adhered to (that).”
Illinois Rep. Timothy Johnson then brought up Corzine’s “substantial wealth” and asked on behalf of his farming constituents, if Corzine and other MF Global executives are “willing to stand the loss with your personal fortunes and (ensure customers are) made whole?”
Corzine – worth hundreds of millions of dollars -- stammered and Johnson pounced “it’s either ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ It’s fairly simple.”
Corzine: “I don’t think this will go unresolved.”
“Assuming it does go unresolved – and it appears there’s a lot falling through the cracks – are you willing to commit … your personal fortunes to making these people whole?” repeated Johnson.
Unsurprisingly, Corzine made no such commitment.
Johnson then jumped on CFTC head Gary Gensler’s recusal from the MF Global investigation due to the “whole Goldman Sachs fraternity.” Gensler and Corzine once worked together at Goldman Sachs, whose former employees also “encompass … foreign ministers of several countries in Europe” that MF Global invested in.
If Gensler’s recusal was appropriate in recent days, wondered Johnson, “why didn’t it happen a year ago? Given your relationship and the CFTC’s oversight of your company why wasn’t recusal … pursued a lot earlier in the process?”
Corzine, who eschewed any opportunity for “speculation” throughout the hearing, again applied the tactic. “I think you’d expect I wouldn’t speculate about the internal considerations Gensler or the people at the CFTC took.”