Thursday, August 16, 2012

How can there be no criminal case... MF Global? According to a front page article in the Times today (my emphasis):

A criminal investigation into the collapse of the brokerage firm MF Global and the disappearance of about $1 billion in customer money is now heading into its final stage without charges expected against any top executives.

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.

As my 92-year-old mother would say: "Baloney Sausage!"

I've worked in the financial industry long enough to know that someone, somewhere, knew they were misusing customer funds. 

As the government’s focus shifts away from Mr. Corzine, it remains interested in a lower-level employee in the firm’s Chicago office, who was known as the “keeper of the books” at MF Global. That employee, Edith O’Brien, oversaw the transfer of customer money during the firm’s final week, when the client cash vanished into the hands of banks, clearinghouses and even other customers. 

Ms. O’Brien, an assistant treasurer, has declined to cooperate with authorities without receiving immunity from criminal prosecution. The government is hesitating to grant her request, suspecting that Ms. O’Brien is the highest-ranking employee with potential liability, one of the people involved in the case said. Ms. O’Brien has not been accused of any wrongdoing. 

If Mr. Corzine agrees to a meeting next month with the F.B.I. and federal prosecutors, the authorities are expected to question him about his interactions with Ms. O’Brien. But Mr. Corzine is unlikely to offer damning evidence or a critical view of Ms. O’Brien, another person briefed on the matter said. The statements Mr. Corzine provides cannot be used against him under the expected terms of the interview, but authorities can use it to build their broader case. And if Mr. Corzine were to arouse suspicions during the interview, he could find himself a target. 

Mr. Corzine has already given his version of events publicly. In Congressional testimony last year, he detailed an exchange he had with Ms. O’Brien days before the firm’s collapse. The back and forth involved a $175 million transfer to JPMorgan Chase to cover an overdrawn account. The transfer, it turned out, came from customer money. 

But internal e-mails suggest that Mr. Corzine did not know the origin of the funds. An e-mail reviewed by The New York Times shows Ms. O’Brien explicitly stated that the money belonged to the firm, not customers. It is possible that with the books in disarray, Ms. O’Brien was not aware that customer money was in jeopardy. 

Again, baloney! Customer funds are always kept separate. Ms. O'Brien would not have used them without someone telling her. 

But the money quote from this article is: 

As the firm’s leader, Mr. Corzine was upbeat about its future, writing an e-mail to employees in January 2011: “Let’s be an example of how to do it right and play a leadership role in restoring confidence in our industry.”

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