Jon S. Corzine, former chief executive of MF Global, walks in a 2008 parade while serving as New Jersey governor. (Nesster/Flickr)
After months of examining the collapse of futures trading firm MF Global, investigators say it’s unlikely they will bring criminal charges against the company’s leadership, according to the New York Times.
Customers, many of them farmers and ranchers, lost almost $1.6 billion in the aftermath of the firm’s implosion. Since then, about 90 percent of the missing money has been repaid, though customers lost months of trading time and the markets plunged into uncertainty.
Throughout farm country, many suspected from the beginning that criminal activity led to the MF Global debacle. However, the New York Times says investigators blame the complex financial market structure and the inherent risk of betting on markets.
“After 10 months of stitching together evidence on the firm’s demise, criminal investigators are concluding that chaos and porous risk controls at the firm, rather than fraud, allowed the money to disappear, according to people involved in the case.”
After the commodity trading firm went bankrupt in October 2011, outrage at the MF Global crisis was palpable. Farmers and ranchers awoke to find money the firm had been holding (not investing in risky markets), sometimes numbering hundreds of thousands of dollars, had vanished. Hedging on the markets, often a vital strategy for farmers dealing with unpredictable Mother Nature, seemed unsafe and many farmers and ranchers didn’t know where to turn.
“It’s no different than a business partner taking advantage of another partner or a spouse cheating on the other spouse,” Leffler said. “You can forgive them, but you never forget.”
All of this is not to say former MF Global chief executive Jon S. Corzine is in the clear, per se. Authorities could still charge the former New Jersey governor or impose civil penalties and a steep fine and regulators could bar him from working on Wall Street.