“Jon Corzine – What’s Going On?”http://www.vanityfair.com/business/2012 ... ine-201202
By Sydney Williams
It pays to be rich, powerful and a Democrat with friends in Washington. While Anna Gristina, a Connecticut mother accused of being a New York “madam” sits in a cell on Riker’s Island, Jon Corzine, the former CEO of MF Global sits at home in his New Jersey mansion. MF Global had been a publically traded securities firm with $40 billion in assets, but with liabilities even larger, filed for bankruptcy late last year, after being accused of co-mingling customer funds with its own, a flagrant violation of securities law.
As we all know, prostitution is illegal. Ms. Gristina has been charged with providing attractive young women to testosteronic men for money — a crime, but largely victim-less. Nevertheless, she has already spent two months on Riker’s Island, awaiting a June 21st hearing. Bail for her was set at $2 million in a bond, or $1 million in cash. Despite the misappropriation of an estimated $1.6 billion, Mr. Corzine has yet to be charged. Yet 36,000 clients had their money appropriated under his watch. It is hard not to believe that his status as a former Senator from and Governor of New Jersey, and major bundler for President Obama’s campaign has not provided him special privileges. Is not justice supposed to be blind?
It is hard to imagine that Ms. Gristina, whose business was to introduce consenting adults, could be an enormous risk to society. On the other hand, a wealthy and powerful man who appears to have cheated his clients is a fraud and a menace. MF Global was a public company, until it became the nation’s 8th largest bankruptcy when it filed last October. Thus, not only are customers, for whose funds Mr. Corzine had a fiduciary responsibility, out their money, but shareholders of MF Global lost their investment as well. Of course, it is perfectly possible that the morally challenged Mr. Corzine was unaware that embezzling is a crime. However, as CEO he is responsible for financial transgressions within his firm. It is unfortunate that he is not man enough to admit it.
Mr. Corzine testified before Congress, and claimed not to have been aware that anything amiss was going on. “I simply do not know where the money is.” What a whopper! Keep in mind this is a man who had been senior partner of Goldman Sachs, so not a naïf when it came to financial matters. Until the bankruptcy, Mr. Corzine was on President Obama’s short-list to replace Timothy Geithner as Secretary of Treasury. He was not only the CEO of MF Global, Mr. Corzine, according to some reports, was chiefly responsible for the bets on European bonds that got them into trouble in the first place. An e-mail from MF Global’s assistant treasurer appeared to implicate Mr. Corzine in the wrongful transfer of $200 million to JP Morgan, a transfer which included customer funds. But when Ms. O’Brien was asked questions at a Congressional hearing she pleaded the fifth. Why? Was she afraid of Mr. Corzine? Did she feel threatened by the prosecutors? Surely she did not transfer funds of that amount without some higher-ups’ approval. A lot of us would like the answer to a question recently asked by a reporter for The Financial Times: why wasn’t she granted immunity from prosecution, in exchange for her testimony? Are the prosecutors concerned as to where the answers might lead?.....(cont'd)
Jon Corzine’s Riskiest Business
Jon Corzine has crashed and burned before: ousted as head of Goldman Sachs in 1999, bounced as New Jersey governor a decade later, even literally shattered in a near-fatal car accident in 2007. But the $40 billion implosion of his brokerage firm, MF Global—with $1.2 billion in missing client funds—is a scandal he can’t survive. Investigating the collapse, Bryan Burrough, William D. Cohan, and Bethany McLean discover what set Corzine on the road to ruin.
By Bryan Burrough, William D. Cohan and Bethany McLean
On March 23, 2010, MF Global, a third-tier commodities-and-derivatives brokerage firm with a market value of less than $1.5 billion, just about one seventy-fifth of the value of Goldman Sachs at the time, sent out a press release announcing that Jon Corzine, the former senior partner of Goldman, former New Jersey senator, and former New Jersey governor, would become its new C.E.O.
“Ten of us were e-mailing each other saying, ‘What the fuck?’ ” says a onetime Goldman trader, referring to a group of his fellow Goldman alums. “Has he lost his marbles?”
Not only was MF Global small compared with Goldman, it was struggling to survive. Its stock, which had traded above $30 in late 2007, was selling below $10. Its decidedly unglamorous business—operating as a broker and helping customers to buy futures contracts—was a hodgepodge that included the remains of Refco, a big futures brokerage that had filed for bankruptcy in 2005. MF Global had some big customers, including Koch Industries, the energy conglomerate owned by Charles and David Koch, and some hedge-fund clients. But many of its customers were from Main Street, not Wall Street. They were individual investors who were using MF Global to bet on, say, the direction of oil prices. They were cattle ranchers who were trying to hedge their exposure to the price of livestock. And they were farmers from all over the country who were trying to protect themselves against price swings in their crops. The firm made money in two ways: from the commissions its clients paid to do trades, and by investing its clients’ cash and pocketing the difference between the rate it paid them and the rate it was able to earn, much as a bank does. In good times, this was a steady moneymaker, but as interest rates plunged after the financial crisis, so did MF Global’s profits.
Why was a big shot, even a former big shot like Corzine, going there? As the New York Times DealBook put it, “It was as if a manager of the New York Yankees was making a comeback in the minor leagues.”