MF Global sues auditor 2.5 years after collapse

March 31, 2014 05:50 AM

MF Global Holdings Ltd., which filed for bankruptcy after a failed $6.3 billion bet on bonds of some of Europe’s most indebted nations, sued PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP for $1 billion, alleging accounting malpractice helped bring down the brokerage company.

PwC, which provided auditing and accounting experts, failed to advise the firm to account properly for its European sovereign debt holdings, leading it to invest too much in them, MF Global said in a complaint filed yesterday in Manhattan federal court.

“But for PwC’s erroneous accounting advice, MF Global Holdings could not have -- and would not have -- invested heavily in European sovereign debt to generate immediate revenues and would not have suffered the massive damages that befell the company in 2011,” MF Global said in the complaint.

MF Global filed for bankruptcy on Oct. 31, 2011, listing assets of $41 billion and debts of $39.7 billion. Customers have claimed in lawsuits against the firm’s former executives, including former chairman Jon Corzine, that more than $1.6 billion of their funds that should have been segregated went missing, transferred to other parts of the company during the liquidity crisis.

In the 2 1/2 years since MF Global’s collapse, the accounting that is the subject of yesterday’s complaint has been examined by trustees, regulators and a congressional committee, PwC said in an e-mailed statement.

“None of them has found that the accounting for those transactions was incorrect,” the firm said. “PwC is disappointed that this meritless claim has been brought.”

European Debt

MF Global claims the suit is the first that seeks to hold PwC responsible for its approval of the firm’s off-balance-sheet accounting for its European debt holdings. The complaint doesn’t address MF Global’s alleged failure to segregate customer funds.

MF Global said that PwC incorrectly told MF Global it could account for debt investments made through “repurchase-to- maturity” transactions as sales, allowing the firm to immediately book the revenue rather than record it on the books as secured financings.

Corzine, 67, a former governor of New Jersey who helped run Goldman Sachs Group Inc. from 1994 to 1999, sought to transform MF Global into a midsize investment bank after arriving there in March 2010. He increased the firm’s risk and used its own money to trade, including investments in European sovereign debt that rattled markets.

The case is MF Global Holdings Ltd. v. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, 14-cv-02197, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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