Chairwoman Stabenow, Ranking Member Roberts, and Members of the Committee: Thank you for inviting me to testify today about efforts to identify, preserve and return assets to former customers of MF Global Inc. My name is James Giddens. I am the court-appointed Trustee for the Securities Investor Protection Act (SIPA) liquidation of the failed broker-dealer, MF Global Inc. I would like to provide an update on the actions I am taking to protect MF Global Inc. customers.
On October 31, 2011, I was appointed as the independent Trustee for the liquidation of MF Global Inc. by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, on recommendation from the Securities Investor Protection Corporation, or SIPC. As empowered by the Securities Investor Protection Act of 1970, when a brokerage firm must be liquidated due to bankruptcy or other financial difficulties, SIPC uses a court-appointed Trustee to, within certain limits, return customers' property as quickly as possible.
A different Trustee has been appointed to oversee the bankruptcy proceedings of MF Global Holdings Ltd. As the Trustee liquidating MF Global Inc., I do not have obligations to the MF Global holding company, nor do I have firsthand knowledge about the events that transpired prior to MF Global’s bankruptcy.
As Trustee, my statutory mandate as the customers’ advocate is to preserve and recover MF Global Inc. customer assets so that they can be returned to the rightful owners and to maximize the estate for all stakeholders. The entire Office of the Trustee, which includes legal experts, consultants and forensic accountants, is singularly focused on looking after the interests of customers and returning assets to them as quickly as possible and in a way that is fair and consistent with the law.
I appreciate the interest of this Committee and other Members of Congress and have been working closely and continuously with SIPC, Commissioner Jill Sommers and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Chairperson Mary Schapiro and the Securities and Exchange Commission, along with the staffs of their respective organizations, and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
Distributions to nearly all of the approximately 36,000 former MF Global Inc. retail customers, whether farmers, day traders, or institutional investors, have been made within weeks of the bankruptcy filing. Through expedited court filings approved by the Bankruptcy Court, we are now in the process of implementing a distribution that will bring the total distribution to customers to more than $4 billion. The customer claims process, which we asked the Bankruptcy Court to authorize us to establish on an expedited basis, is also up and running, with claims forms on our website and also sent by mail.
My goal remains to pay MF Global Inc.’s former retail commodities and securities customers 100% of the amounts in their accounts as promptly as permitted by governing regulations. Ultimate distributions are, of course, dependent upon assets available and there is no assurance of a 100% return.
Exhaustive efforts to collect funds from US depositories continue. However, complicating matters, assets located in foreign depositories for customers that traded in foreign futures are now under the control of foreign bankruptcy trustees or administrators. While I will pursue them vigorously, experience dictates that recovery of these foreign assets may be more uncertain and may take more time.
The Office of the Trustee has made every effort to communicate directly and frequently with customers. Our website includes updates, court filings, claims forms and claims filing instructions, including a section addressing the common questions being asked by customers in calls or other communications to my staff. My staff and I are answering customer calls and emails and holding meetings with customer groups and counsel. In the month of November, the call center handled more than 8,500 calls, and more than 60,000 individuals accessed our website on more than 222,000 occasions.
If your constituents have any questions, I encourage them to visit MFGlobalTrustee.com, e-mail my staff at MFGITrustee@hugheshubbard.com, or call our call center at 1-888-236-0808.
I fully understand the frustration of many former MF Global Inc. customers, some of whom you have heard from directly. When a broker-dealer fails under the unprecedented circumstances surrounding MF Global’s demise, the liquidation is necessarily complex. My office has been working tirelessly with speed and diligence to identify ways to return assets to customers to the full extent of our ability under the applicable provisions of SIPA, the Bankruptcy Code and CFTC regulations.