Schwab, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter, is contemplating a bid in which it would make no up-front payment for MF Global’s “retail” futures business, which executes or clears trades for small investors.
Meanwhile, investors are demanding answers from MF Global’s board of directors about what they knew about how much risk the firm was taking that led to its bankruptcy filing earlier today, sources tell the FOX Business Network.
Schwab was a long-time customer of MF Global for executing retail trades, and under the plan being discussed, its payment to MF Global would possibly come in the form as a success fee if the deal yields profits at some point in time, these people say.
Such “back-end” payments are highly unusual, but MF Global may have no choice. The brokerage firm, run by former Goldman Sachs chairman and New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after a hectic week as it announced massive losses tied to its investments in European debt, and was unable to sell the firm over the weekend.
MF Global’s biggest business, which involves executing and clearing futures trades for large institutions and small investors, has been shut down with the bankruptcy filing with clients fleeing to other firms particularly institutional clients who trade frequently.
Without those clients, the businesses themselves are said to be worthless, though the retail futures business might stand a better chance at attracting a buyer since small investors don’t trade as much and the client base is more stable.
That said, it isn’t stable enough, according to some industry experts. “The price will still be close to zero because what are you really buying?” said a senior executive at a major futures firm.
The inability to attract a decent price--or any price at all--for its assets underscores the massive hurdles MF Global and Corzine face in bankruptcy to salvage the company. Many investors and analysts believe the Chapter 11, which allows companies to reorganize the business while be protected from creditors, is merely a prelude to a full-scale liquidation.
MF Global is now rated junk, meaning other firms won’t trade with it and its own traders are barred from the various exchanges. FOX Business was first to report last week that clients such as Canter Fitzgerald were refusing to trade with the firm, and on Friday, FBN was first to report that the firm was headed toward liquidation.
Spokespeople for MF Global or Charles Schwab didn’t return a call for comment.
Charles Gasparino joined FOX Business Network (FBN) in February 2010 as Senior Correspondent.