Published January 30, 2012
A House subcommittee investigating the demise of the brokerage firm MF Global plans to issue a report on its inquiry that will likely criticize two federal agencies for failing to communicate key information about the firm's risk-taking activities just months before its implosion and subsequent bankruptcy filing in November, the FOX Business Network has learned.
The House Financial Services subcommittee on investigations will hold its second hearing this Thursday, which will include testimony from MF Global's risk officers. Committee members plan to focus on statements the firm's senior executives made to rating agency officials just before the firm imploded over investor fears surrounding its exposure to risky sovereign debt.
The implosion of MF Global came at a huge cost to investors -- and not just those who held shares of the company's stock. As much as $1.2 billion in money belonging to the firm's brokerage customers is still missing and as first reported by the FOX Business Network investigators unraveling the firm's bankruptcy say much of that money may be gone forever.
A number of civil and criminal agencies are investigating the circumstances behind the missing money and the role played by the firm's former chief executive, Jon Corzine in the matter. But the Congressional committee is also looking at why the two federal agencies that have regulatory authority over MF Global -- the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission -- didn't act more swiftly to prevent the firm's demise and to protect the customer cash from being co-mingled with other accounts during the firm's final days.
One reason, according to the a person close to the subcommittee, is a lack of coordination between the CFTC and the SEC. The SEC hasn't been able to provide the subcommittee with any evidence that it alerted the CFTC that it had concerns about MF Global's global capital position and exposure to sovereign debt as early as June of last year. In fact, a person close to the subcommittee says it has obtained evidence that the CFTC wasn't made aware of the SEC's concerns at the time.
A CFTC spokesman didn't return calls for comment; a spokesman for the SEC referred FOX Business to testimony during the last hearing in which a CFTC general counsel stated that the agency was alerted by the SEC on the matter.
However, a person close to the committee says that neither the CFTC nor the SEC can provide any details about this communication, including the people involved in the communication.
Coordination between the SEC and the CFTC is important because both regulated different parts of the firm; the SEC had jurisdiction over the firm's risk taking in the markets while the CFTC was the primary regulator of its futures brokerage business, which lost the customer money.
The report will likely both outline not just the failures at the two agencies in charge of regulating MF Global but also what staffers believe is the failure of the new federal agency designed to coordinate functions among the various securities regulators, the Financial Stability Oversight Council. The new agency was created as part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.