I had to cringe when I saw the headline from a Nov. 5 New York Times DealBook webpage story: “MF Global Customers to Recover All That They Lost.”
All that they lost? Are the commodity trading advisors that shut down as a result of monies guaranteed by law to be segregated away from firm assets going to get their businesses back? How about the introducing brokers forced out of business or at least out the commissions they earned. While the announcement that 100% of customer money illegally (yes illegally) taken (yes taken not lost) out of segregation will be returned more than two years later that doesn’t mean the millions in commissions owed to IBs will be paid. If there is money left over perhaps they will get some. How about the customers of CTAs that survived and performed well over the next year. Those customers were out those returns, the CTAs were out the incentive fees and the brokers were out commissions.
And what of the farmers and ranchers out millions unable to buy seed or restock herds due to their money being gone. Some went out of business and all took a hit. How about those traders so faithful of the futures industry that they left millions in their MF Global account because they thought the guarantee of segregation was safer than the limited FDIC guarantee? Or those with physical metals holdings that had to put up more of their own money to claim property rightfully theirs (warehouse receipts held but not owned by MF Global).
The DealBook story continues to minimize the crime of MF Global. It noted “[MF Global] improperly transferred customer money to its banks and clearinghouses, violating a cardinal rule of the financial industry.”
How about replacing “improperly” with illegally and “rule” with law. And it is not a general financial industry law but part of the Commodity Exchange Act (is someone trying to avoid the word futures or commodity as a recent Reuters story on the nomination of a new Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman referred to the CFTC as “Swaps Regulator”).
Later in the story we get this: “The decision hands Mr. Giddens and MF Global clients — a hodgepodge of farmers, small-time investors and hedge funds — a long-sought victory. It also represents an unlikely bookend to the debacle and a remarkable turnaround from the firm’s bankruptcy filing when such a recovery seemed a long shot.”
Perhaps a moral victory for those forced out of business.
And those who understood—the Commodity Customer Coalition for one—how the rules were supposed to work did not believe a recovery was unlikely. In fact, they demanded the 89% (at the time) of client assets that the firm held after the filing should have been immediately distributed and that the trustee should aggressively go after the rest.
The use of the term “bookend” is another instance of the assumption that this is over without a criminal prosecution of, or civil recovery from Mr. Corzine and other executives of MF Global on ongoing civil suits.
Further down in the story the Times once again minimizes Corzine’s role by noting: “When the Commodity Futures Trading Commission filed civil charges against Mr. Corzine in June, saying he failed to supervise the employee accused of misusing the customer money…”
Corzine was charged with more than that. Take another look. As head of the firm he was responsible for the firm following the CEA and once again the story fails to point out that Corzine was the one responsible for the trading that put it under stress in the first place.
There were many victims of MF Global and the Times once again dismisses them and minimizes the crimes that were committed here.
Note: Any former MF Global Customers who would like to share their stories are encouraged to comment.