According to a report from Republican oversight panel members of the House Financial Services Committee, as MF Global teetered on the brink of failure, regulators were confused about how to deal with the crisis. The findings come from a number of Congressional hearings with MF Global executive and other officials during a yearlong probe, including interviews with numerous ex-MF Global employees and over 240,000 documents. The Republicans released the report without the backing of House Democrats.
E-mails that went back and forth between the regulators in the hours leading up to the financial derivatives broker’s bankruptcy exhibited what the Republicans describe as a “disorganized and haphazard” approach to oversight, as well as communication issues.
Some of the Republicans behind this 100-page report believe that regulators gave former MF Global chief executive John S. Corzine a lot of leeway. Meantime, Democrats have said that the report is a way for Republicans to embarrass Obama administrative watchdogs.
Representative Randy Neugebauer, who is the oversight panel’s chairman and led the investigation, commented that it wasn’t that more regulation was necessary in the handling of the MF Global crisis but that the regulators needed to actually do their job and work together better. For example, per the report, after the Commodity Futures Trading Commission had instructed MF Global to transfer $220M to stop up a hole in customer accounts, which the firm agreed to do, the Securities and Exchange Commission and other regulators complained that the order was given without first consulting them. The report also cites other incidents of missed communications and frustration among the different agencies toward each other.
Some Republicans are suggesting that SEC and CFTC would better serve investors and customers if they streamlined themselves or merged into one agency. However, this is not the first time that lawmakers have tried to combine the two regulators. Such efforts in the past have always hit a wall of opposition.
The report on MF Global is the most significant attempt by the government to address errors made by the broker and the bulk of the blame continues to be pointed toward Corzine, who fought back against attempts to limit his authority over European trades, including the demands of auditor PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) that MF Global account for sovereign debt holdings in a manner that would have lowered profitability. However, authorities continue to remain wary of filing criminal charges against MF Global’s top executives because they believe that loose controls and chaos and not criminal actions, are why over a billion dollars in customer money disappeared. (The report also names the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, contending that it should have been more careful when deciding to approve MF Global’s application to sell securities on the New York Fed’s behalf.)
House Report Faults MF Global Regulators, New York Times, November 15, 2012
Financial Services Subcommittee Report Finds Decisions by Corzine, Lack of Communication Between Regulators Led to MF Global Bankruptcy and Loss of Customer Funds, Financial Services, November 15, 2012
Read the Report (PDF)
More Blog Posts:
$1.2 Billion of MF Global Inc.’s Clients Money Still Missing, Stockbroker fraud Blog, December 10, 2011
MF Global Holdings Ltd. Files for Bankruptcy While Its Broker Faces Liquidation and Securities Lawsuit by SIPC, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, October 31, 2011
Ex-MF Global CEO John Corzine Says Bankruptcy Trustee’s Bid to Join Investors’ Class Action Securities Litigation is Hurting His Defense, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, September 5, 2012 Continue reading