CFTC files complaint against Jon Corzine, Edith O'Brien for misues of customer funds

Former-MF Global CEO Jon Corzine (Source: Bloomberg) Former-MF Global CEO Jon Corzine (Source: Bloomberg)

Washington, DC - The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today filed an enforcement action in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against MF Global Inc. (MF Global), a registered futures commission merchant (FCM), MF Global Holdings Ltd. (Holdings), former Chief Executive Officer of MF Global and Holdings Jon S. Corzine, and former Assistant Treasurer of MF Global Edith O’Brien based on, among other violations, MF Global’s unlawful use of customer funds that harmed thousands of customers and violated fundamental customer protection laws on an unprecedented scale.

MF Global has agreed to settle all charges against it on terms set forth in a proposed order that is subject to court approval and includes 100% restitution of the approximately $1 billion lost by all commodity customers when the firm failed on October 31, 2011. Commissioner Jill Sommers stated, “I am pleased that the MF Global Trustee has agreed to settle the charges against the company. There is nothing more important than doing everything possible to make full restitution to all commodity customers. I am also proud of the members of the Division of Enforcement team, who have worked so hard on this case to bring us to where we are today.”

According to the Complaint, Corzine, a former U.S. Senator and New Jersey Governor with more than twenty years of Wall Street experience, joined MF Global as CEO in March 2010 with a plan to transform the firm from a futures broker into a major investment bank. Corzine’s strategy called for making increasingly risky and larger investments of the firm’s money. In the summer and fall of 2011, as MF Global’s need for cash was rising and its sources of cash were diminishing, Corzine knew that the firm was relying more and more on proprietary funds that it held alongside customer funds in FCM customer accounts. During this time, Corzine did not enhance MF Global’s deficient systems and controls sufficiently to ensure that the firm’s increasing reliance on FCM cash did not result in unlawful uses of customer money. Ultimately, these failures contributed to the massive customer losses.

As alleged, during October 2011, MF Global was on the brink of failure and in desperate need of cash to survive. As Holdings’ Treasurer told Holdings’ CFO at that time, in one of many recorded phone calls obtained by the CFTC, the firm was “skating on the edge,” without “much ice left.” Corzine was warned about the firm’s liquidity stresses, and he knew that the firm violated its own policy that had been designed to protect customer funds. Holdings’ Treasurer recommended to Holdings’ CFO in a recorded call, “we have to tell Jon that enough is enough. We need to take the keys away from him.”

In the last week of October 2011, with virtually no other sources of immediate cash to turn to, the firm repeatedly and unlawfully used customer funds for firm needs, ultimately leaving it nearly $1 billion short of customer funds. In that last week, Corzine is alleged to have been aware of the firm’s true low cash balance, even as he directed the firm to continue paying large obligations without inquiring how the firm could come up with the money to do so. Corzine is charged for the firm’s violations as an MF Global “control person” who, among other things, did not act in good faith and is also charged with violating his legal obligations to diligently supervise.

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