Corzine's MF Global collapses under euro zone bets

Mon Oct 31, 2011 7:45pm EDT
 
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By Jonathan Spicer and Nick Brown

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Jon Corzine's bid to revive his Wall Street career crashed and burned on Monday when his futures brokerage MF Global Holdings Ltd filed for bankruptcy protection following bad bets on euro zone debt.

Corzine, 64, who once ran Goldman Sachs before becoming a U.S. senator and then governor of New Jersey, had been trying to turn the more than 200-year-old MF Global into a mini Goldman by taking on more risky trades.

But once regulators forced it to fully disclose the bets on debt issued by countries including Italy, Portugal and Spain, it rapidly unraveled with no buyers willing to step in.

MF Global's meltdown in less than a week made it the biggest U.S. casualty of Europe's debt crisis, and the seventh-largest bankruptcy by assets in U.S. history.

The company's shares plunged last week as its credit ratings were cut to junk. The Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing came after talks to sell a variety of assets to Interactive Brokers Group Inc broke down earlier on Monday, a person familiar with the matter said. Regulators had expressed "grave concerns" about the viability of MF Global, which filed for bankruptcy only after "no viable alternative was available in the limited time leading up to the regulators' deadline," the company's chief operating officer, Bradley Abelow, said in a court filing.

One of the regulators that pressed MF Global, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, was unhappy with the brokerage's failure to give it the required data and records.

"(T)o date we don't have the information that we should have," said a source close to the CFTC.

In the end, regulators and markets reacted swiftly to MF Global's troubles, which may have been exacerbated by Corzine's affinity for risk-taking over the course of a career that took him to the top echelons of Wall Street and then into politics.   Continued...