MF Global Corzine ordered funds moved to JP Morgan, memo says

JP Morgan never received assurance that transfer was not customer money

March 24 (Bloomberg) -- Jon S. Corzine, MF Global Holding Ltd.’s chief executive officer, gave “direct instructions” to transfer $200 million from a customer fund account to meet an overdraft in a brokerage account with JPMorgan Chase & Co., according to a memo written by congressional investigators.

Edith O’Brien, a treasurer for the firm, said in an e-mail quoted in the memo that the transfer was “Per JC’s direct instructions,” according to a copy of the memo obtained by Bloomberg News yesterday. The e-mail, dated Oct. 28, was sent three days before the company collapsed, the memo says. The memo does not indicate whether that phrase was the full text of the e-mail or an excerpt.

The account could have contained both client and company funds, the memo notes. Whether the transfered funds were those of the company, its clients or both is not known.

“If client funds were transferred at his direction, it raises new questions,” Seth Berenzweig, managing partner at Berenzweig Leonard LLP, a law firm in McLean, Virginia, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “This is a new storm cloud that is now headed for Jon Corzine and it raises a lot of issues.”

O’Brien’s internal e-mail was sent as the New York-based broker found intraday credit lines limited by JPMorgan, the firm’s clearing bank as well as one of its custodian banks for segregated customer funds, according to the memo, which was prepared for a March 28 House Financial Services subcommittee hearing on the firm’s collapse. O’Brien is scheduled to testify at the hearing after being subpoenaed this week.

‘Funds Were Safe’


 “Over the course of that week, MF Global’s financial position deteriorated, but the firm represented to its regulators and self-regulatory organizations that its customers’ segregated funds were safe,” said the memo, written by Financial Services Committee staff and sent to lawmakers.

 Steven Goldberg, a spokesman for Corzine, said in a statement that Corzine “never gave any instruction to misuse customer funds and never intended anyone at MF Global to misuse customer funds.”

Vinay Mahajan, global treasurer of MF Global Holdings, wrote an e-mail on Oct. 28 that said JPMorgan was “holding up vital business in the U.S. as a result” of the overdrawn account in London, which had to be “fully funded ASAP,” according to the memo.

Barry Zubrow, JPMorgan’s chief risk officer, called Corzine to seek assurances that the funds belonged to MF Global and not customers. JPMorgan drafted a letter to be signed by O’Brien to ensure that MF Global was complying with rules requiring customers’ collateral to be segregated. The letter was not returned to JPMorgan, the memo said.

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