Articles Posted in MF Global

Jon S. Corzine, the former head of MF Global Inc. has arrived at a securities settlement with the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission in which he will pay a $5M penalty for his involvement in the firm’s illegal use of nearly $1B in customer money and for not properly supervising the way these funds were handled. A federal judge has approved the deal.

The regulator sued Corzine in 2013 and he must now pay the civil penalty out of his own funds rather than have an insurer cover the costs. Also part of the deal, Corzine has agreed to a permanent bar from heading up a futures broker or registering with the CFTC. This means that he will no longer be allowed to trade other people’s funds in the future industry unless the trades are below specific threshold limits.

Corzine’s settlement with the SEC comes after he’d resolved most of the private litigation against him related to MF Global. Investors and the industry were flummoxed when the almost $1B in customer couldn’t be accounted for. Fortunately a trustee has since recovered the missing funds for the investors, which are both individuals and hedge funds, to whom the money belonged. The money, which were segregated customer funds, was inappropriately used to fund the futures commission merchant’s proprietary operations and that of its affiliates, pay FCM customers for withdrawals involving customer funds, and pay brokerage firm securities customers.

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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

Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) and Rep. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) are calling on the Commodities Futures Trading Commission to crack down on excessive energy market speculation. They believe that this type of speculation on oil that is “based on world events” is “abusive” and has been creating difficulties for Americans.

In their released statement, Murphy said that such speculation ups the price of a gallon of gas by 56 cents. The two lawmakers want the futures and option markets regulator to swiftly implement rules that have already been passed to curb excessive speculation.

In other commodities/futures trading news, last month the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas ordered two men and their company Total Call Group Inc. to pay over $4.8 million for allegedly producing false customer statements and making bogus solicitations related to an off-exchange foreign currency fraud. In CFTC v. Total Call Group Inc., Thomas Patrick Thurmond and Craig Poe will pay $1.62 million and $3.24 million, respectively. Per the agency, between 2006 through late 2008, the two men solicited about $808,000 from at least four clients for trading in foreign currency options.

Earlier this month, another company, registered futures commission merchant Rosenthal Collins Group LLC, consented to pay over $2.5 million over CFTC allegations that it did not adequately supervise the way the firm handled an account linked to a multibillion dollar Ponzi scam. The account, held in Money Market Alternative LP’s name, experienced “significant change” between April 2006 and April 2009 in how much money it took in. For instance, the CFTC says that even though the account at inception reported a $300,000 net worth and a $45,000 yearly income, deposits varied from $2 million to $14 million a year. RCG is also accused of failing to look into and report excessive wire activity involving the account. As part of the CFTC securities settlement, the financial firm consented to pay a $1.6 million fine and disgorge $921,260, which is how much RCT made in account fees.

Just three days before, the CFTC announced that its swaps customer clearing documentation rule packaging will expand open access to execution and clearing, enhance transparency, lower cost and risks, and generate competition. The rules will not allow arrangements involving swap dealers, designated clearing organizations, major swap participants, and futures commission merchants that would limit how many counterparties a customer can get into a trade with, impair a client’s ability to access a trade execution on terms reasonable to the best terms that already exist, limit the position size a customer can take with an individual counterparty, and not allow compliance for specified time frames for acceptance of trades into clearing. Also, the CFTC is thinking about adopting definitions for swap dealers, major security-based swap participant eligible contract participant, security-based swap dealer, and major swap participant. These entities were created under the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Meantime, MF Global Inc. (MFGLQ.PK) liquidation trustee James Giddens reportedly believes that he can make claims against certain company employees. Possible claims again such persons could include allegations of customer funds segregation requirement violations and breach of fiduciary duty. Although MF Global had told regulators that it was unable to account for customer funds of up to $900 million when it filed for bankruptcy protection, investigators are now saying that this figure is closer to somewhere between $1.2 billion and $1.6 billion.

Commodities Futures Trading Commission

Trustee May Sue MF Officials, NY Times, April 12, 2011
CFTC Orders Rosenthal Collins Group, LLC, a Registered Futures Commission Merchant, to Pay More than $2.5 Million for Supervision and Record-Production Violations, CFTC, April 12, 2012
CFTC v. Total Call Group Inc.

More Blog Posts:
CFTC Says RBC Took Part in Massive Trading Scam to Avail of Tax Benefits, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, April 12, 2012
Texas Man Sued by CFTC Over Alleged Foreign Currency Fraud, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, February 23, 2012
CFTC and SEC May Need to Work Out Key Differences Related to Over-the-Counter Derivatives Rulemaking, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, January 31, 2012 Continue reading

Batting away criticism that many of the Security and Exchange Commission’s enforcement actions for fiscal year 2011 were actually follow-on administrative proceedings and not new actions, Chairman Mary Schapiro stood by the agency’s record. She also noted that in some instances, follow-ons are key to enforcing federal securities laws. Schapiro made her statements to a House Appropriations panel.

Per recent media findings, over 30% of the SEC’s FY 2011 735 enforcement actions (the agency has never filed this many in a fiscal year before) were follow-on administrative proceedings. Schapiro, who was testifying in front of the House Appropriations Financial Services Subcommittee on the White House’s proposed $1.566 billion FY2013 budget for the SEC, noted that some of the enforcement actions were the most complex to ever occur and included those involving municipal securities market-related bid rigging, misleading sales practices related to structured products, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act-related violations, and insider trading. She also pointed to the number of senior level people that have been the target of many of last year’s SEC enforcements.

Schapiro said that even as the SEC has already proposed or adopted regulations for over three-fourths of the duties it was tasked with under the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the most challenging ones, including proposals to enhance disclosures for companies that use conflict minerals or pay governments for access to natural gas, minerals, and oil, are still on the horizon. So is the SEC’s joint proposal with banking regulators on the Volcker rule, which exempts insurance firms from proprietary trading restrictions while preventing financial institutions and affiliated insurers from being able to invest in private equity and hedge funds. She said stated the SEC is “rethinking” how it deals with its Volcker rulemaking.

According to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the whereabouts of $1.2M in MF Global Inc. customer funds are still unknown. Lawmakers at a Senate Banking Committee meeting grilled the CFTC officials earlier this week.

Speaking before the panel on Tuesday, CFTC Commissioner Jill Sommers said that the agency still has yet to find all the money. The CFTC began its investigation into MF Global’s collapse after holding company MF Global Holding filed its Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition on October 31. Sommers reported that there are dozens of CFTC staffers working on finding the missing funds.

Meantime, former MF Global head Jon Corzine has said that he, too, doesn’t know where the money went. He issued an apology to employees, customers, and investors who have had to deal with the fallout from brokerage firm’s collapse. Since MF Global announced it was seeking bankruptcy protections, thousands of clients have seen their assets frozen.

According to trustee James Giddens, MF Global Inc. may have a greater than $1.2B shortfall in US segregated customer accounts. Giddens has been tasked with overseeing the failed company’s liquidation.

Previously, the estimated shortfall had been $593 million. Now, however, that estimate has likely changed. Giddens says that it will take $1.3 billion to $1.6 billion dollars to distribute 60% of what should have been found in the accounts of customers. He has noted that how much of the assets he can access is not the same as the shortfall amount. Giddens is reportedly close to exhausting the money that he does control.

$5.45 billion in money from customer accounts were frozen on the last day of October, one day after an MF Global unit reported that client funds (Commodity Futures Trading Commission rules say these should have been segregated) had experienced a material shortfall. Parent company MF Global Holdings Inc. then sought bankruptcy protection.

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