Jon S. Corzine, MF Global Holding Ltd.’s chief executive officer, gave “direct instructions” to transfer $200 million from a customer fund account to meet an overdraft in one of the brokerage’s JPMorgan Chase & Co. accounts in London, according to an e-mail sent by a firm executive.
Edith O’Brien, a treasurer for the firm, said in an e-mail sent the afternoon of Oct. 28, three days before the company collapsed, that the transfer of the funds was “Per JC’s direct instructions,” according to a copy of a memo drafted by congressional investigators and obtained by Bloomberg News.
O’Brien’s internal e-mail came as the New York-based broker found intraday credit lines limited by JPMorgan, the firm’s clearing bank as well as one of its custodian banks for segregated customer funds, according to the memo, which was prepared for a March 28 House Financial Services subcommittee hearing on the firm’s collapse. O’Brien is scheduled to testify after being subpoenaed this week.
“Over the course of that week, MF Global’s financial position deteriorated, but the firm represented to its regulators and self-regulatory organizations that its customers’ segregated funds were safe,” said the memo, written by Financial Services Committee staff and sent to lawmakers.
Vinay Mahajan, global treasurer of MF Global Holdings, wrote an e-mail on Oct. 28 that said JPMorgan was “holding up vital business in the U.S. as a result” of the overdrawn account, which had to be “fully funded ASAP,” according to the memo.
Barry Zubrow, JPMorgan’s chief risk officer, called Corzine to seek assurances that the funds belonged to MF Global and not customers. JPMorgan drafted a letter to be signed by O’Brien to ensure that MF Global was complying with rules requiring customers’ collateral to be segregated. The letter was never returned to JPMorgan, the memo said.
The money transferred came from a segregated customer account, according to congressional investigators. Segregated accounts can include customer money and excess company funds.
Corzine testified that he never intended a misuse of customer funds at MF Global, and that he doesn’t know where client funds went.
“I did not instruct anyone to lend customer funds to anyone,” Corzine told lawmakers in December.
Steven Goldberg, a spokesman for Corzine, declined immediate comment.
The bankruptcy trustee overseeing the liquidation of the company’s brokerage subsidiary has estimated a $1.6-billion shortfall between customer claims and assets available.
Lawmakers and investigators from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Justice have been reviewing events leading up to MF Global’s bankruptcy filing. Executives including Corzine, a Democrat who served in the Senate before he was elected governor of New Jersey, gave testimony on the collapse at three congressional hearings last year.
Representative Randy Neugebauer, a Texas Republican, will hold the third in a series of hearings into the firm’s failure. Neugebauer, the chairman of the Financial Services oversight and investigations subcommittee, will release a final report on his investigation into the firm’s failure.
MF Global and its brokerage, MF Global Inc., sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy after a $6.3 billion bet on the bonds of some of Europe’s most indebted nations prompted regulator concerns and a credit rating downgrade. Corzine quit MF Global Nov. 4.
O’Brien, who was subpoenaed by lawmakers this week to testify at the hearing on the final week before the New York-based futures brokerage’s failure, was identified by Corzine as someone with knowledge of a transfer of funds from customer accounts before the firm sought bankruptcy protection Oct. 31.
Reid H. Weingarten, O’Brien’s lawyer, did not immediately respond to a phone call and e-mail seeking comment.
The memo’s account of the e-mail exchanges aligns with what Terrence Duffy, the executive chairman at CME Group Inc., told lawmakers during a December congressional hearing. Auditors at CME, which had authority to oversee MF Global, learned from an employee of the brokerage that Corzine knew about the loans involving a European affiliate, Duffy told committee members.
O’Brien is scheduled to appear before lawmakers with Christine Serwinski and Laurie Ferber, two other MF Global executives named by Corzine as being involved in the transaction, according to the memo. Henri Steenkamp, the firm’s chief financial officer, is also scheduled to testify, as is a representative from JPMorgan who has not yet been identified.