When one considers the lack of investigatory zeal in the MF Global scandal, it might raise questions as to the need to make the investigation of MF Global’s top executives â€“ which is occurring some six months after a potential crime was committed â€“ eventually a matter of public record.
MF Global is a story that publicly debuted with a fraud allegation. This is when CMEGroup president Terry Duffy famously proclaimed in Congressional testimony that critical account segregation reports had been falsified by MF Global to regulators during their final week of operation. Further, Mr. Duffy clearly called into question the honesty of MF Global CEO Jon Corzine’s now famous testimony “I simply don’t know where the money went.”
With credible acquisitions of potential fraud highlighting a major pronouncement regarding the eighth largest bankruptcy in the US, one might assume that an investigation, or at least questioning, of MF Global’s top executives might take place. This is particularly the case as reports had surfaced in leading publications quoting those close to the investigation as saying “the case is cold” and “prosecution is unlikely.” With all this, one might assume questioning of the top executives had taken place.
That didn’t happen.
According to the New York Times, MF Global’s inner circle of executives, including CEO Jon Corzine, General Counsel Laurie Ferber, president Bradley Abelow, along with newly employed Henri Steenkamp, Chief Financial Officer, had not been initially questioned after the “loss” of $1.6 billion in customer segregated funds. In Congressional testimony on March 28, 2012 rumors that top MF Global executives had yet to be questioned were confirmed when both Ms. Ferber and Mr. Steenkamp testified they had not yet been directly questioned by investigators. However, in this same testimony it was confirmed that Chicago back office employee Christine Serwinski, chief financial officer for North America, had been questioned twice. Sources have indicated that back office employees have undergone extensive questioning while watching MF Global top executives float freely through the company with impunity. These same sources say that the back office employees who remained at MF Global were sequestered and not allowed to talk to one another about MF Global or its demise, while MF Global’s top executives operated the company that was plundered and had the ability to wire transfer money out of MF Global for up to six weeks after the firm declared bankruptcy.
When it comes to investigations, the type of questions and how they are asked can greatly impact the outcome. Given the fact that an investigation into the top officers might never have taken place without public pressure, and with such un-even investigation of the back office, is it not reasonable to ask that the now long overdue investigation into MF Global’s top executives be made transparent so it can be held to a higher standard?
Transparency need not be immediately made public. It can occur after a trial or when the “case is cold.” The point is known transparency into a situation can alter behavior and operate as a most cost effective regulator.
All contents Copyright (C) 2012 Mark H. Melin.