In defense of Jon Corzine

In a very unlikely setting last night, coming from a very unlikely source, I heard a lecture speaker let loose with a venomous attack on Jon Corzine, former head of MF Global. Slightly paraphrased, but this was the gist of it:

“Why is Corzine still walking free? He stole people’s money and should be in jail.”

I was shocked on three counts. First, it’s been 18 months since that all went down. Second, I didn’t expect this person to have paid that much attention to the MF Global story. Third, the anger was palpable.

I’m not angry and I worked for the guy. Lost a great-paying job that I loved. Got kicked out on the street with 30 minutes warning and no back vacation pay or severance.

So, I introduced myself at the end of the evening and said that I had worked at MF Global.

“What did you think of Corzine?”

I tried saying that I thought he was a play-by-the-rules kind of guy at heart and wouldn’t have intentionally or consciously violated segregated fund rules.

But, I was interrupted:
“He stole people’s money and should be in jail.”

I tried explaining that, from my perspective, the accounting department was in disarray from even the most basic level and that it wouldn’t have surprised me to think that there simply wasn’t a good way in that last, rip-roaring week to have been confident about whose money was really where. Phones had been ringing off the hook as customers tried to get funds wired out. The exchanges and banks were breathing down the company’s neck.

But, I was interrupted:
“It was his company, and he speculated with it and it failed and people’s money is missing.”

All true, I agreed. And, I tried explaining that just because he might not have run the company very well doesn’t mean that he intentionally violated seg fund rules.

But, I was interrupted:
“He was CEO and he stole people’s money. He should be in jail.”    

And that’s when I walked away. It’s not a conversation when only one side is willing to listen.

Believe me, I’m as disgusted as anyone that the very bedrock of the futures markets — segregated funds for clients, held separately from company funds — was blown to smithereens by my former company. Having money in a commodities trading account was safer than having money in a bank. It had worked for a hundred years, and overnight, that trust was gone.

But, geez. Get over it already. Did you have a million-dollar account there? Because if not, then me and many of my couple thousand colleagues probably were more harmed than you. We’ve moved on.  And so should you.

For more, see the April Editor's Note: Sticking Points.

Posted with permission from

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